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

Friday, January 30, 2015

#TheReturn

Game 48: Kings at Cavs

SACRAMENTO KINGS (16-28) at CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (27-20)
Quicken Loans Arena
7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The last time the Cavs converged on The Q, the night belonged to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. He erupted for a career-high 55 points in the Cavs' five-point victory over Portland. The Cavs needed almost every one of them. No one is expecting Irving to play anywhere near that level tonight. 

2. The Cavs will likely be playing without All-Star forward LeBron James, who has a sprained right wrist. He's listed as doubtful. This is strictly a guess, but I'm figuring he won't play at Minnesota, either, on Saturday. A return against Philadelphia on Monday night make some sense. The Cavs are always going to err on the side of caution. The Cavs are now 2-8 without James in the lineup.

3. Many observers think they should be able to beat the Kings without James. Remember, the Kings throttled the Cavs at Sleep Train Arena on Jan. 11, 103-84. Center DeMarcus Cousins is questionable with a left ankle sprain. He was added to the Western Conference All-Star team on Friday to replace the injured Kobe Bryant. He's fifth in scoring (23.8 points per game) and third in rebounding (12.3) on the season. 

4. Cavs power forward Kevin Love was left off the East team, but there was little chance of that happening. Coaches are watching the Cavs games, too. He's been mediocre at best since being traded to the Cavs. It's one thing for his scoring to be down. That was a given with James and Irving on the team. But Love is shooting 42 percent from the field and has had trouble defending all season. It just wasn't going to happen. Were you going to leave players like Atlanta's Al Horford or Paul Millsap or even Miami's Chris Bosh off the team? No way.

5. The Kings have three former Cavs players on their roster in Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi and Ryan Hollins, not to mention coach Tyrone Corbin. Corbin replaced ex-coach Mike Malone early in the season. Has that move changed their fortunes? Not in the least.

6. Cavs center Timofey Mozgov needs to show up tonight and at least make Cousins work. He faced the Kings in the Cavs' first meeting and played well with 14 points and 12 rebounds. 

7. Kings point guard Darren Collison has scored in double figures in 19 consecutive games, in addition to 24 of their last 26. He's a very underrated player.

8. The Cavs have won eight games in a row. They've also won their last five games against Western Conference teams. They are 6-2 in their last eight games at The Q vs. Sacramento.

UP NEXT: at Minnesota, Target Center, 8 p.m. Saturday

PROBABLE STARTERS
SF Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Rudy Gay (6-8, 230)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Jason Thompson (6-11, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 270)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Ben McLemore (6-5, 195)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Darren Collison (6-0, 175)
PROJECTED INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao
Kings - F Eric Moreland
OFFICIALS


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Game 47: Trail Blazers at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (27-20) 99, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (32-14) 94
Quicken Loans Arena
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The high-flying Trail Blazers haven't played since Saturday, Jan. 24, vs. Washington. If nothing else, they should be well-rested. Yet it was the Cavaliers who were the aggressor all night. They took it to one of the best teams in the league. The Trail Blazers have fashions on making it to the NBA Finals. They are that good. But they were no match for the Cavs, and more specifically Kyrie Irving, on this night.

2. Irving's 55 points were one point shy of the franchise record. LeBron James had 56 at Toronto on March 20, 2005. Irving was fantastic on the night. The Cavs needed every one of his points, too. The Blazers wouldn't go down easy.

3. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge recorded his 21st double-double of the season with 38 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and one steal. He is a load. The Cavs tried a handful of players on him defensively - to no avail. The thing that separates him is he can shoot the ball and score in the post. Love his game.

4. I don't love what I'm seeing from Kevin Love right now. He had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately, he missed his last 11 shots from the field. He ended 3 of 15 from the floor, 2 of 8 from the arc. He doesn't look right to me. Perhaps his back is acting up. I think he could use a rest. A two-week layoff would do him wonders. He sure isn't playing his way onto the All-Star team. When the reserves are announced on Thursday, I think Irving will be picked and Love will be left off.

5. Irving has connected on 17 3s in the last two games, one off the NBA record set by Golden State's Stephen Curry. He had 18 on Feb. 26 and 27, 2013. Irving's 93 points in back-to-back games are the most ever by a Cavs player. The previous mark was by LeBron James with 89 on March 5 and 6, 2008.

6. Don't expect to see James on Friday, either. I think they've already decided he will miss the Sacramento game.

7. The Blazers are a bit banged up. Big men Joel Freeman (right shoulder strain) and Robin Lopez (right hand fracture) missed the game. The loss of Lopez could have been huge, but Chris Kaman pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds. 

8. The Cavs' eight-game winning streak is the second-longest in the NBA, trailing only Atlanta's remarkable 17-game streak. The Hawks are 31-2 since Nov. 28.

9. The Cavs are outscoring opponents by an average of 13.8 points per game in the streak (112.7-98.9). In their recent 4-0 homestand, they won by at least 10 points in each game. They hadn't done that since the 1988-89 season.

10. The Cavs' defense stood the test tonight. They've held their last six opponents under 100 points - 93.8 to be exact - and a combined 40 percent shooting from the field. That is getting it done on that end. 

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

STARTERS
SF Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Nicolas Batum (6-8, 225)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (6-11, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Chris Kaman (7-0, 265)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Wesley Matthews (6-5, 214)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Damian Lillard (6-3, 195)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao
Blazers - F/C Joel Freeland, C Robin Lopez
OFFICIALS
Zach Zarba, Mark Ayotte, Derek Richardson

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Game 46: Cavs at Pistons

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (26-20) 103, DETROIT PISTONS (17-29) 95
The Palace of Auburn Hills
Tuesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: NBA TV, Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavs built a 15-point lead on the Pistons, but then had to hang on at the end for their seventh win in a row. Guard Kyrie Irving was on fire for most of the night and ended with 38 points, which matched his season high. He really deserves a spot on the All-Star team, and I think he's going to get it on Thursday when the reserves are announced.

2. Cavs forward LeBron James added 32 points. So, these two star players combined for 70 of the Cavs' 103 points - or 68 percent of their points. This was the second time this season both James and Irving each scored 30 or more points. The other came at the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 16.

3. The last time these two teams met, the Pistons pounded the Cavs at The Q, 103-80, on Dec. 28. Point guard Brandon Jennings ripped the Cavs for 25 points and six assists. The Cavs won't have to deal with Jennings again this season. He ruptured his left Achilles' tendon (same one as Cavs center Anderson Varejao) and will be lost for the season. The Pistons have replaced him with D.J. Augustin in the starting lineup. He's a quality player, as evidenced by his 19 points and nine rebounds. The problem might be when they go to the bench. Rookie Spencer Dinwiddie is unproven and might not be ready to play. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game the team was searching for another point guard. 

4. Van Gundy was talking about how good the Cavs were after the game. He just slipped in there the part that teams don't even game plan for Kevin Love. What? Seriously? That quote could cause a major controversy. 

5. The Cavs are one of the hottest teams in the league. They've won seven in a row, which is quite an accomplishment. Of course, Atlanta has won 16 in a row. Now that's crazy. But the Cavs are now 7-1 since James' return on Jan. 13 from a two-week layoff. It might have saved the Cavs season. He's come back a new player. The Cavs have added three new players in Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. They've given the team a shot in the arm, too.

6. If Coach David Blatt doesn't like his team shooting so many 3-pointers, why doesn't he say something to them about it? In their last three games, they are 40 of 98 from behind the arc (41 percent). They have averaged 33 3-point attempts in the last three games. They were just 9 of 34 against the Pistons (26.5 percent). Some of the ugly numbers: Love was 1 of 8, J.R. Smith 1 of 6 and Iman Shumpert 1 of 5.

7. The Pistons have lost four of their last five games after their recent hot streak. Coach Stan Van Gundy has done a good job with this team and had it in playoff contention. They are not responding well to Jennings' loss.

8. The Cavs made major strides defensively during their streak. They're outscoring opponents by an average of 14.8 points (114.3-99.5). They are shooting 49.2 percent from the field during the streak and have held their foes to 42.8 percent. In their last five games, they are holding teams to 93.5 points per game and 39.8 percent shooting from the floor (138 of 347). That's outstanding.

9. They have scored 100 or more points in eight consecutive games. They are 21-4 when they top the 100-point barrier.

10. Their home game against Portland on Wednesday should be a good one. While they are battling in the Motor City on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers have been in Cleveland practicing and resting up for the matchup. I'm predicting a Cavs win.

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

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Kyle Singler (6-8, 228)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Greg Monroe (6-11, 240)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Andre Drummond (6-11, 279)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 205)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. D.J. Augustin (6-0, 185)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Pistons - G Brandon Jennings
OFFICIALS
Monty McCutchen, David Jones, Justin Van Duyne

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Game 45: Thunder at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (25-20) 108, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (22-22) 98
Quicken Loans Arena
Sunday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: ABC

1. Dion Waiters' return was sort of a dud. He entered the game, there were a few boos, and that was that. He was traded by the Cavs on Jan. 5 in a three-team deal. It brought the Cavs J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, which is why Cavs fans seem a bit numb to Waiters leaving. Waiters was a talented player, but was often times misunderstood. LeBron James said Waiters wore the scapegoat tag very well. The latter always seemed to get blamed for what went wrong with the Cavs. He's being billed as a defensive stopper-type in OKC, which is a stark contrast to how he played in Cleveland. We know Dion can score. He always will. But until he understands how to play in a team game, he's always be cast as a me-first player. Perhaps, working with Coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder has helped him understand the game. He ended with 14 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

2. The Thunder finished 3-2 on their just-completed five-game East Coast trip. They really wanted to finish the trip with a bang. Unless they get their act together, they could be left out of the Western Conference playoff field. They would have to overtake some very good teams, such as Phoenix and New Orleans. It's not a lock they make the playoffs.

3. The Cavs have improved to 14-9 at The Q this season. That's really not where they want to be. Good teams normally win 75 percent of their home games and about 50 percent of their road games. The Cavs have won six in a row. They haven't lost since Jan. 13 in Phoenix - almost two weeks. They want to keep that train rolling.

4. The Cavs were outstanding on the defensive end. I thought that was the key to the game. They held the Thunder to 39.4 percent shooting from the field. The Thunder have so many weapons, starting with forward Kevin Durant, last year's MVP. He's a 25-point scorer, who can shoot from distance. He's so long, he's hard to defend. But let's not forget point guard Russell Westbrook. He's about the same size as Kyrie Irving, but he's a different player. He's so much more physical than Irving. Westbrook just attacks the basket, and there's not much one can do to prevent it. He's averaging 25 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.3 steals (it would league the league is he had enough attempts).

5. In the first meeting with the Thunder, a 103-94 loss on Dec. 11 - Irving crumbled to the floor in what looked like a serious knee injury. Luckily for him, he was able to stay in the game and played in the second half. He ended with 20 points and six assists. He said later that he suffered a bone bruise. 

6. The Cavs snapped a two-game losing streak to OKC. However, they've won seven of their last nine games against the Thunder at The Q. If the playoffs started today, the Thunder would be on the outside looking in. The Cavs would be the fifth seed in the East. They are four games behind No. 4 Chicago. I predict they will catch the Bulls.

7. Cavs power forward Kevin Love has 13 double-doubles in 18 career games against the Thunder, including 11 in a row. He had 18 points and 13 rebounds against OKC. More importantly, he made 5 of 7 from behind the arc.

8. James is averaging 29.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals in seven games since his return from his two-week layoff. 

UP NEXT: at Detroit, The Palace of Auburn Hills, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Kevin Durant (6-9, 240)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Serge Ibaka (6-10, 245)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Steven Adams (7-0, 255)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Andre Roberson (6-7, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Russell Westbrook (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, C Brendan Haywood
Thunder - F Grant Jerrett, F/C Mitch McGary
OFFICIALS
Scott Foster, Nick Buchert, Pat Fraher



Friday, January 23, 2015

Game 44: Hornets at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (24-20) 129, CHARLOTTE HORNETS (18-26) 90
Quicken Loans Arena
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. This is really getting interesting. The Hornets were one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. They'd won three in a row, as well as eight of their last nine. None of that mattered on Friday, as the Cavaliers destroyed them. They were dominant offensively and defensively. 

2. The Cavaliers are 4 1/2 games behind No. 4 Chicago in the East. Of course, the Bulls topped Dallas on Friday.

3. The Cavs have won five in a row. During the winning streak, they are getting balanced scoring from their starters, defending and sharing the ball. The most important factor is they are playing together as a team and have a supreme confidence. They expect to win when they take the court. It's fun to watch. 

4. The Cavs' debut of shooting guard Iman Shumpert wasn't anything special. Once he gets his legs under him, he's going to make a big impact. He had eight points, two rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes. It was his first game since Dec. 12. I have to say, I don't think Coach David Blatt should alter his starting lineup. Not with the way they are playing. He said he's not a superstitious coach. It would make sense to leave J.R. Smith right where he is. He showed tonight what he's capable of doing: 7 of 11 3-point goals. There aren't many players in the league that can do that.

5. The Cavs swept the season series with Charlotte, 3-0. That might matter later in the season when tie-breakers become relevant. 

6. The last time the Cavs won by 39 points was Jan. 15, 1994, in a 110-67 victory of the Philadelphia 76ers. The 129 points were a Quicken Loans Arena record.

7. They set season highs in rebounds (56) and defensive rebounds (45).

8During the Cavs' winning streak, they are outscoring opponents by an average of 10 points (112.3-102.3). They have scored at least 106 points in each game and are shooting a combined 49.8 percent from the field. 

9. The 100-point barrier is magical for the Cavs. They are 12-0 at home and 19-4 overall when they score at least 100 points. They are 19-1 when scoring at least 102 points,

10. Guard Kyrie Irving has had a big hand in the Cavs' winning streak. During this stretch, Irving is averaging 23.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists. He's shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

UP NEXT: vs. Oklahoma City, Quicken Loans Arena, 3:30 p.m. Sunday

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 Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Bismack Biyombo (6-9, 245)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Gerald Henderson (6-5, 215)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kemba Walker (6-1, 184)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao
Hornets - G Jannero Pargo, F Noah Vonleh
OFFICIALS
Bill Kennedy, Tony Brown, J.T. Orr

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game 43: Jazz at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (23-20) 106, UTAH JAZZ (14-28) 92
Quicken Loans Arena
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. This is going to be a fun ride. Just one week after things seemed to be hitting rock bottom, suddenly the Cavs look like world-beaters. LeBron James missed practice on Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. You'd never know it last night, as he finished with 26 points, nine assists and four steals.

2. Reinforcements are on the way in the form of shooting guard Iman Shumpbert. He's expected to play in the Charlotte game. The Cavs didn't want to rush him back. He had a dislocated left shoulder while playing for the Knicks. He was injured on Dec. 12 vs. Boston and hasn't played since. If I'm Coach David Blatt, I'd work him in slowly against the Hornets. For one thing, coaches don't want to mess with a good thing. They're superstitious when their teams are on four-game winning streaks. Secondly, J.R. Smith has been playing very well at shooting guard.

3. Shumpert doesn't offer anything close to Smith offensively. Smith is a sniper, a big-time scorer. He can erupt for 30 points at a drop of a hat. Shumpert earns his paychecks on the defensive end. He can guard point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. The plan is for him to start at the "2" spot. That way, Smith can assume the role of sixth man.

4. The Cavs lost to the Jazz, 102-100, on Nov. 5. After watching last night's game, I'm not sure how this team lost to Utah. 

5. The Cavs have won four of their last five meetings with the Jazz. They are also 9-1 in their last 10 games against Utah at The Q.

6. In their four-game winning streak, the Cavs are averaging 114.3 points and shooting 49.2 percent from the field. When they top the 100-point barrier this season, the Cavs are 11-0 at home and 18-4 overall.

7. The Cavs' starting five all scored 15 or more points in each of the last two games. That's an amazing stat. It doesn't happen very often.

8. LeBron James (582) tied Mark Price for sixth place in games played in a Cavs uniform. Since his return to the lineup, James has averaged 31.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

9. Jazz guard Joe Ingles played for Coach David Blatt on Maccabi Tel Aviv, which won the 2013-14 Euroleague championship.

10. The Cavs are off tomorrow. However, it said on the grease board in the locker room, yoga lessons will be at noon tomorrow at Cleveland Clinic Courts. That might have been someone's attempt at humor.

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

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Gordon Hayward (6-8, 225)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Derrick Favors (6-10, 262)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Enes Kanter (6-11, 245)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Joe Ingles (6-8, 216)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Trey Burke (6-1, 185)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Jazz - G Alec Burks, G/F Rodney Hood
OFFICIALS
Bennett Salvatore, David Jones, C.J. Washington