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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Game 25: Nets at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (15-10) 95, BROOKLYN NETS (10-15) 91
Quicken Loans Arena
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. Cavaliers coach David Blatt hinted after practice on Thursday a change might be in order. Finally, he made the move on Friday by inserting Mike Miller as the starting shooting guard. That move was long overdue. It was about two weeks late, in my opinion. The bottom line to me is that you want your shooting guard to be able to shoot. Shawn Marion's lack of offense was hurting the starting unit. Marion is a strong defender and there's a lot to like about him, but Miller can knock down an open shot. Marion - he of the funky shot - can no longer do that.

2. Blatt said the move was also made to strengthen the second unit. That group has struggled all season and certainly could use a jolt. The Cavs still got outscored by the Nets' bench, 28-23. But with Marion, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and James Jones, they have some semblance of a bench. It could work out for them. 

3. Waiters, however, didn't play in the second half. Zilch. Nada. I'm sure he's steamed right now. Coach David Blatt said it was just a gut feeling. Waiters hasn't been playing real well, even in the Atlanta game when he scored 21 points. Some think this is a precursor to him being moved. We'll have to see how it plays out. It wouldn't shock me.

4. This was a must-win game for the Cavs. Why? They face Memphis on Sunday. Had they lost Friday's game, as well as on Sunday, they'd be facing a three-game losing streak. The Grizzlies are one of the top teams in the league. They grind it out inside and have a fabulous point guard in Mike Conley. It could be a war on Sunday. Just so you know, the game is at 4:30 p.m.

5. Thompson had a strong game and played the entire fourth quarter. He ended with nine points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. Anderson Varejao, who seems to be wearing down as the season goes on, didn't get off the bench in the fourth. 

6. The Cavs are 11-4 when they outrebound the opposition. I thought that would be a staple for the Cavs this season. They held the Nets to just four offensive rebounds. They have 99 total rebounds in two games against Brooklyn, compared to the Nets' 70.

7. James surpassed Charles Barkley (23,757) for 23rd place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. 

UP NEXT: vs. Memphis, Quicken Loans Arena, 4:30 p.m. Sunday


STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Joe Johnson (6-7, 240)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Kevin Garnett (6-11, 253)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Mason Plumlee (6-11, 235)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Sergey Karasev (6-7, 208)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Deron Williams (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Alex Kirk, F Lou Amundson
Nets - G Markel Brown, C Brook Lopez
OFFICIALS
Monty McCutchen, Dedric Taylor, Sean Wright

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Game 24: Hawks at Cavs

ATLANTA HAWKS (18-7) 127, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (14-10) 98
Quicken Loans Arena
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. You think 14-10 is where the Cavs thought they'd be after 24 games? Not in your wildest dreams. This isn't coming together how they thought it would. Defense has been the problem repeatedly for much of the season. This team scores plenty of points. It just doesn't stop the opposition like it needs to. For anyone to think this is going to end in a championship run, you're out of your gourde.

2. Now, look, it's not like it can't happen. There is a lot of talent on this team. Any team that has LeBron James on it, has a chance at winning the whole enchilada. However, it's time this team starts playing like a championship challenger. They came into Wednesday's game the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Right now, present day, I don't think they'd get out of the second round of the playoffs. That's not what they had in mind when they built this team.

3. Forward Kevin Love was in the starting lineup after missing shootaround with flu-like symptoms. He finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but did very little after his customary hot first quarter.

4. The Hawks ripped the Cavaliers a new one, and were playing without perhaps their best player in point guard Jeff Teague. He's also their floor general. It didn't make one bit of difference. Dennis Schroder dished out a career-high 10 assists. When he went to the bench, Shelvin Mack just embarrassed the Cavs with a career-high 24 points. He was 6 of 6 from behind the arc. Where was Kyrie Irving in all this? No where to be seen. He scored just nine points on the night. He stayed out on the court afterward and took shot after shot. He hasn't been the same since he suffered the knee injury in OKC last week. He might be a bit fatigued. I don't know what it is, but he hasn't been the same.

5. Cavs swingman Mike Miller really wanted to play tonight, but was held back for precautionary reasons. His neck was a bit stiff. He's now missed seven games with his concussion. 

6. Forward LeBron James didn't like the line of questioning after the game and asked a radio host if he ever asks anything but negative questions. The radio host asked LeBron if he was embarrassed after a loss like this. There was nothing wrong with the question. In fact, Coach David Blatt used the same word about 10 minutes earlier. 

7. James is four points shy of surpassing Charles Barkley (23,757) for 23rd place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Perhaps he'll pass Barkley in the next game.

8The Cavs had a nine-game winning streak snapped against Eastern Conference foes. They are 12-4 vs. the East this season.

UP NEXT: vs. Brooklyn, Quicken Loans Arena, 7:30 p.m. Friday


STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. DeMarre Carroll (6-8, 212)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Paul Millsap (6-8, 246)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Al Horford (6-10, 245)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Kyle Korver (6-7, 212)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Dennis Schroder (6-1, 168)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Alex Kirk, G/F Mike Miller
Hawks - F Adreian Payne, G Jeff Teague
OFFICIALS
Bill Kennedy, Kevin Cutler, Gary Zielinsky



Monday, December 15, 2014

Game 23: Hornets at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (14-9) 97, CHARLOTTE HORNETS (6-18) 88
Quicken Loans Arena
Monday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers snapped a two-game losing streak with an impressive victory over the pesky Hornets. This is the start of a 5-game homestand for the Cavaliers, but there aren't many pushovers. The Hornets have bottomed out after making the playoffs last year. When I asked what happened to the Hornets, a member of their traveling party said, "We got Lanced!" He was referring to guard Lance Stephenson, who was signed as a free agent and hasn't exactly worked out. The Hornets are trying to trade him.

2. The Cavaliers played short-handed once again. Swingman Mike Miller (concussion) missed his sixth consecutive game. Coach David Blatt hopes he'll be able to play against Atlanta on Wednesday. Backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova (stomach ailment) played 12 largely ineffective minutes. Most players wouldn't even attempted to play, Blatt said. He said Delly lost seven pounds in the last couple days.

3. Cavs forward LeBron James' left knee must be monitored in the foreseeable future. He missed the Oklahoma City game with knee soreness. It might be a case where he'll need to back off a bit in practice just to stay ready for the games. When asked how his knee was after shootaround, James replied, "Good enough for me to go  out and play. The best way to recover is to get as much rest as possible."

4. The Cavs must get back to defending like they were. Their defense was shredded in the two-game road trip in OKC and New Orleans. Part of the problem is the quality of the two teams they played. Both have penetrating guards, who find shooters on the perimeter. Hornets point guard Kemba Walker can wreak havoc on a defense, too, and fired in 24 points on Monday. When asked about the team's defense in the previous two games, Irving refused to answer at shootaround. "I think I will keep that to myself," he said. "I want to keep that internally in our locker room."

5. The Cavs have won nine consecutive games against Eastern Conference foes. They are 12-3 vs. the East this season.

UP NEXT: vs. Atlanta, Quicken Loans Arena, 7 p.m. Wednesday


STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6-7, 232)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Cody Zeller (7-0, 240)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Al Jefferson (6-10, 289)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Lance Stephenson (6-5, 230)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kemba Walker (6-1, 184)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - G/F Mike Miller, C Alex Kirk
Hornets - F Noah Vonleh
OFFICIALS
Marc Davis, Steve Anderson, Mark Ayotte

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cavs at Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (11-11) 119, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (13-9) 114
Smoothie King Center
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers ended a grueling stretch of four games in five nights. They dropped both games of a back-to-back road set in Oklahoma City and New Orleans. Both teams were under .500 at the time of the game. The Cavs ended an 8-game winning streak in OKC.

2. Cavs forward LeBron James returned to the lineup after a one-game absence with a sore left knee. He matched his season high with 41 points, including 19 in the first quarter. He didn't play like someone who had a sore knee. He didn't serve as playmaker. He was in attack mode from the start. Of course, that might happen when a team tries to defend him with Luke Babbitt.

3. Guard Kyrie Irving suffered a knee contusion in the OKC game. He didn't look right in the New Orleans game - at least in the first three quarters. He missed his first nine shots from the field. Then in the fourth quarter, he made 7 of 10 shots for 17 points. Irving also dished out seven assists.

4. The Cavs were scheduled to take Saturday off and then practice on Sunday. They host Charlotte on Monday, the first game of a five-game homestand. This won't be an easy 5-game stretch, as they face playoff teams like Charlotte, Atlanta and Memphis.

5. The Pelicans were 12 of 28 from the 3-point line. Forward Ryan Anderson was particularly lethal with an 8-for-14 performance en route to 30 points. In two games against the Cavs this season, Anderson averaged 31 points. He was a load to handle on Friday. The Cavs switched James onto him to try to slow him down. All that did was open up driving lanes for Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who fired in 31 points and dished out 10 assists. Anderson has one of the quickest releases on his shot in the league.

6. The Cavaliers caught a huge break when Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, an early leader for MVP honors, was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. The 6-10, 220-pounder is averaging 25.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. He played just 6:30 in the game, but it didn't make one bit of difference. The Pelicans shot 55.7 percent from the field and totally exploited the Cavs' defense.

7. Before I forget, the Pelicans are in last place in the Southwest Division. If they were in the East, they'd be one of the top five teams come playoff time. The Southwest is easily the best division in basketball with Houston, Memphis, San Antonio and Dallas the other contenders. Wow. 

8. Cavs guard Dion Waiters was checked out by doctors with a stomach problem. The Cavs could get swingman Mike Miller (concussion) back for Monday's game.

UP NEXT: vs. Charlotte, Quicken Loans Arena, 7 p.m. Monday


STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Luke Babbitt (6-9, 220)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Anthony Davis (6-10, 220)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Omer Asik (7-0, 255)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Tyreke Evans (6-6, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Jrue Holiday (6-4, 205)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - G/F Mike Miller, C Alex Kirk
Pelicans - G Eric Gordon, G Russ Smith
OFFICIALS
Bill Spooner, Kevin Scott, James Williams

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cavs at Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (9-13) 103, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (13-8) 94
Chesapeake Energy Arena
Thursday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: TNT

1. All-Star forward LeBron James missed his first game of the season on Thursday with a sore left knee. He's listed as questionable for the New Orleans game on Friday. I'd have to guess that he won't play. The Cavaliers usually err on the side of caution with injuries of this nature. It's unsure when he injured the knee. It could be just wear and tear. He could have bumped it in the Toronto game. He had a couple a hard collisions in the Raptors game, but got up each time. So, let me say it again, I'd be surprised if he plays against the Pelicans.

2. The Cavaliers should thank their lucky stars they didn't have two injuries to worry about. When Kyrie Irving went to the floor with about a minute left in the first half, he grabbed his knee and looked like he was seriously injured. He was helped off the court to the locker room after the play. It was a bit surprising when he came out and warmed up for the second half. Then, Coach David Blatt played him almost the entire second half (all but 1:19). He must have really wanted to play.

3. Let's get this out of the way now: Blatt should leave Matthew Dellavedova in the starting lineup whether James returns against the Pelicans or not. The Shawn Marion experiment is long overdue for a change. Blatt appears to be pretty hard-headed, so he won't make the move just because it was suggested by the media. Marion is almost hurting the team with his lack of offense. He can't shoot and opposing teams know it. Dellavedova doesn't normally shoot this well, either, but he made 5 of 8 from the field and 4 of 6 from the 3-point line en route to 14 points. He also defends, distributes the ball and hustles. Take advantage of his play. Make the move now.

4. The Cavs had their eight-game winning streak snapped. When it was announced that James wasn't playing, most observers realized the winning streak was coming to an end on this night. The Thunder have now won four in a row, including six of their last seven.

5. The Thunder are not only potent offensively, they are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They have a major shot-blocker in Serge Ibaka. Second-year center Steven Adams is also strong around the basket. They now bring Kendrick Perkins off the bench. They limited the Cavs to 94 points and 36.5 percent shooting from the field. That's significant, too, since the Cavs were averaging 106.1 points per game.

6. The Cavs are now 6-4 on the road and had a three-game winning streak snapped. They face another tough obstacle Friday in New Orleans. The thought of Anthony Davis dominating around the basket is dancing in my head right now.

7. Thunder coach Scott Brooks played for the Cavs during the 1997-98 season. Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant also played for the Wine & Gold during the 1999-2000 season. OKC's assistant GM, Mike Winger, was a member of the Cavs' front office for five seasons.

UP NEXT: at New Orleans, Smoothie King Center, 8 p.m. Friday


STARTERS
SF Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Kevin Durant (6-9, 240)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Serge Ibaka (6-10, 245)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Steven Adams (7-0, 255)
SG Matthew Dellavedova (6-4, 200) vs. Andre Roberson (6-7, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Russell Westbrook (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - G/F Mike Miller, C Alex Kirk
Thunder - F Grant Jerrett, F Mitch McGary
OFFICIALS
Joe Crawford, Eli Roe, Leon Wood

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Raptors at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (13-7) 105, TORONTO RAPTORS (16-6) 101
Quicken Loans Arena
Tuesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers won their eighth game in a row. For much of the game, I seriously doubted whether they were going to be able to get the job done. The Raptors are a legitimate team. They don't have the best record in the Eastern Conference by accident. They have talented players, athletic players. They can spread the floor and make shots. Coach Dwane Casey has them defending. They also have a rim protector. That adds up to a very strong team, one that gives the Cavs fits.

2. The Cavs have won 2 of 3 games against the Raptors this year. They have just one game remaining against Toronto, on March 4. 

3. The Cavs are 6-3 on the road. They just completed a 3-0 road trip. This next trip is going to be a tough one. It's a back-to-back set starting in Oklahoma City on Thursday and finishing in New Orleans on Friday. If they win both of those, it's time to tip your cap to the Cavs.

4. Toronto's backcourt is formidable, even with DeMar DeRozan sidelined with a groin injury. Kyle Lowry is a load. He ended with 16 points and a season-high 14 assists. Lou Williams comes off the bench and can score in bunches. Terrence Ross is a swingman and can just light it up from the perimeter. Lowry is one of the toughest point guards in the league. His dribble penetration causes all kinds of problems. He's also not afraid to venture into the paint to score. And, let's not forget his 3-point shooting. The entire package sometimes is a nightmare.

5. I might be raving about Matthew Dellavedova too much, but he plays so hard. He doesn't back down from anyone. He's a vital cog to the Cavs' machine. A lot of people around the league question whether he can get the job done on a regular basis for a championship-level  team. I guess we'll find out whether that's the case or not. All I know is he hustles, defends and distributes the ball. If he could shoot, he'd be a starter. He missed the previous 15 games with a sprained knee.

UP NEXT: at Oklahoma City, Quicken Loans Arena, 8 p.m. Thursday


STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Terrence Ross (6-7, 198)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Amir Johnson (6-9, 249)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (7-0, 270)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Landry Fields (6-7, 206)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kyle Lowry (6-1, 204)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - G/F Mike Miller, C Alex Kirk
Raptors - G DeMar DeRozan, C Lucas Nogueira
OFFICIALS
N/A

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cavs at Nets

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (12-7) 110, BROOKLYN NETS (8-11) 88
Barclays Center
Monday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The biggest story line of the game wasn't the royal couple in attendance. It was the performance of the Cavaliers' bench. It outscored the Nets bench, 59-42. Guard Dion Waiters was sensational with a season-high 26 points and four assists. He had been in a total funk and has reached double figures in scoring just once in his previous nine games. 

2. The return of guard Matthew Dellavedova might have straightened out the Cavs' bench woes. He made his first appearance in a game since Dec. 4 in Portland. He missed the previous 15 games with a sprained knee. He'll be All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving's backup.

3. Of course, giving James Jones some regular minutes will help the bench scoring. He fired in a season-high 12 points in 14 minutes against the Nets.

4. Nets center Brook Lopez was sidelined with a lower back strain. The 7-foot, 275-pounder is expected to miss at least four games. He is usually a load to defend for the Cavs, who don't have any legitimate players that size. Brendan Haywood is on the roster, but doesn't really play any meaningful minutes. Lopez is averaging about 16 points and 6 rebounds.

5. Old warrior Kevin Garnett stepped in at center. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. He'll probably make that 18-foot jumper until he's 50.

6. The Cavaliers pounded the Nets on the boards, 55-33. That domination started in the third quarter when Kevin Love had nine of his 14 rebounds. The Cavs had three players reach double figures in rebounding. Anderson Varejao also had 14 rebounds and Tristan Thompson 12. Overall, they've been pretty ordinary in the rebounding department this year. It was time they imposed their will on a good team. OK, they don't have a rim protector. What's that have to do with boxing out and outworking the opposition?

7. The Cavaliers extended their winning streak to seven in a row. They put the finishing touches on an impressive 3-0 road trip. This is the first night of another back-to-back set. The real test might come on Tuesday vs. Toronto at The Q. That's going to be a battle.

8. During the streak, the Cavaliers are winning by an average margin of 15 points. The Cavs are averaging 105.7 points and shooting 50.7 percent as a team. Defensively, they are limiting opponents to 90.7 points and holding them to 42.3 percent shooting.

9. The Cavs have won 10 consecutive games when scoring at least 100 points. They are 11-1 when reaching the century mark this season.

10. Irving had averaged 26 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals in his previous four games. He was held to just seven points against the Nets. He missed his first six shots from the field and never got in any kind of rhythm.

11. The Cavs saw old friends Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev. Both were traded to the Nets in the offseason when the Cavs were trying to shed salary to sign LeBron James. Karasev had 11 points off the bench.

UP NEXT: vs. Toronto, Quicken Loans Arena, 7 p.m. Tuesday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Alan Anderson (6-6, 220)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Mirza Teletovic (6-9, 242)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Kevin Garnett (6-11, 253)
SG Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Bojan Bogdanovic (6-8, 216)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Deron Williams (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - G/F Mike Miller, C Alex Kirk
Nets - F Andrei Kirilenko, C Brook Lopez
OFFICIALS
Ken Mauer, Brent Barnaky, Derrick Collins