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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Game 3: Cavs at Celtics

GAME 3
First round of Eastern Conference playoffs
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (3-0) 103, BOSTON CELTICS (0-3) 95
TD Garden
Thursday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: TNT, Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers are gunning for a sweep in their best-of-seven series with Boston. They have a chance to close out the first-round series at 1 p.m. Sunday at TD Garden. If you have a chance to wrap up a series, step on their throats. Don't give your opponent a chance to come back in the series. Boston is certainly giving the Cavs everything they have. The Celtics are playing so hard in this series. I have a new-found respect for them.

2. LeBron James was spectacular with 31 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. He shot 13 of 26 from the field. The only downside is that he played a game-high 42 minutes. The Cavs can't afford to wear him down, especially in the first round of the playoffs. He'll be needed on this playoff run that could stretch into June.

3. Things came easy for Kyrie Irving in the first two games of the series. He averaged 28 points in the first two games. One could make a case for him being the best player on the court on those games. It all came crashing down in Game 3 when he had just 13 points and six assists. He shot just 3 of 11 from the field. He never got in any kind of flow. 

4. Luckily for the Cavs, both Kevin Love (23 points, nine rebounds, three assists) and J.R. Smith (15 points, five rebounds) both came up big. Love was 6 of 10 from behind the arc and Smith was 3 of 8. The Cavs were 12 of 29 from the 3-point line.

5. Boston players have been trying to get rough with James. Cavs coach David Blatt said that's playoff basketball. It might have been a little excessive, especially when center Timofey Mozgov got elbowed in the throat. They are trying to get into the Cavs' head with the rugged play. It's not going to work. James said he's seen and heard it all.

6. Boston's bench has outscored its Cleveland counterparts, 143-52, in the first three games of the series. Forward Jae Crowder (16) had as many points as the Cavs' bench in Game 3. Critics point to the disparity and say that will be the Cavs' eventual downfall in the playoffs. None of their three main players off the bench are big scorers. Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova pride themselves on their defensive acumen. James said whatever scoring they get from their bench is icing on the cake. James Jones, of course, is a scorer and has made big baskets in the series.

7. The Cavs have committed 31 turnovers in the first two games of the series, 11 by James. They had just 11 turnovers in Game 3. That's how they have to play, especially in the subsequent rounds of the playoffs.

9. I've been impressed with the way the Cavaliers have competed on the boards. It will bode them well in later rounds. They own a 138-118 edge on the glass in the first three games. Kevin Love is averaging 9.0 rebounds in the series. James is right behind at 8.6 and Thompson at 8.0. Thompson is averaging 4.7 offensive rebounds in the series. It's one of the keys to the series thus far, according to Boston coach Brad Stevens.

10. Shooting percentages have taken a major dip in the series. The Cavs were shooting just 44.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line in the first two games. Boston was shooting just 42.7 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from behind the arc. 

UP NEXT: at Boston, TD Garden, Game 4 of Eastern Conference playoffs, 1 p.m. Sunday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 205)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Brandon Bass (6-8, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 225) vs. Avery Bradley (6-2, 180)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Marcus Smart (6-4, 220)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Celtics - G Chris Babb, G/F James Young
OFFICIALS
James Capers, David Guthrie, Jason Phillips

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Game 2: Celtics at Cavs

GAME 2
First round of Eastern Conference playoffs
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (2-0) 99, BOSTON CELTICS (0-2) 91
Quicken Loans Arena
Tuesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: TNT, Fox Sports Ohio

1. This next game in Boston on Thursday is going to be the toughest in the series. They will be facing a hostile team in a hostile environment. It's Boston's best chance at a victory in the series. If they don't win Game 3, the Celtics are probably going to get swept. The Celtics are confident they can win the game. Guard Isaiah Thomas said they just have to clean up a few things, and they have a chance at getting back in the series.

2. Obviously, LeBron James (30 points) and Kyrie Irving (26) were outstanding in Game 2. The Celtics haven't been able to slow down Irving in the series, as he's averaged 28 points in the first two games. And, once James starts attacking the basket like he did tonight, there's no stopping him. The third member of the Big Three, Kevin Love (13 points) only got eight shots on the night. However, he was again aggressive getting to the basket. He made 6 of 7 free throws. In the two games, he's 13 of 15 from the foul line. That's an outstanding number.

3. The Cavaliers' starters have outscored Boston's starters, 176-85, in the first two games. It's been a real mismatch. The same can be said of the Celtics' bench, however, which has a a whopping 106-36 edge over the Cavaliers. Many think Boston's bench is stronger than their starters, especially with guard Isaiah Thomas. He's had 22 points in each game and is quite a load. The guy plays with a chip on his shoulder. He finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting behind Toronto's Lou Williams.

4. James said after the game he has to cut down on his turnovers in Game 3. He has 11 turnovers in the first two games. Turn the ball over in Boston and the Cavs could lose Game 3. He averaged a career-high 3.9 turnovers during the regular season.

5. Game 3 is not going to be an easy by any means. James was vintage LeBron in Game 2. Simply impossible to defend. The Celtics tried to get rough with him - Evan Turner even smashed him in the face, by accident, I think.

6. The Cavaliers have a 93-73 edge on the glass in the first two games. 

7. Cavs guard J.R. Smith is not having a great series shooting the ball. He's 6 of 21 from the field, 3 of 15 from the 3-point line. He contributed tonight with seven points, four rebounds and five steals. That kept him on the floor.

8. Has a 3-point shooting team ever won an NBA title? Maybe Dallas in 2011. If the Cavs aren't a 3-point shooting team, I've never seen one. Their bombs-away approach was never more evident than in Game 2 when they made just 7 of 29 from behind the arc.

9The Cavs have won 22 of their last 23 games at The Q. They are also 36-9 in the last 45 games.

10. The Cavs have never lost a series when they had a 2-0 lead.

UP NEXT: at Boston, TD Garden, Game 3 of Eastern Conference playoffs, 7 p.m. Thursday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 205)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Brandon Bass (6-8, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 225) vs. Avery Bradley (6-2, 180)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Marcus Smart (6-4, 220)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Celtics - G Chris Babb, G/F James Young
OFFICIALS
Danny Crawford, Marc Davis, Bennett Salvatore

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Game 1: Celtics at Cavs

GAME 1
First round of Eastern Conference playoffs
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1-0) 113, BOSTON CELTICS (0-1) 100
Quicken Loans Arena
Sunday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: ABC

1. The Cavaliers did what they set out to do: Win Game 1. It doesn't matter if they game was sloppy. It doesn't matter if it was ugly. All that matters is they won the game. They'll need 15 more of these to win the ultimate goal - an NBA championship.

2. The Big Three stepped up big tonight. Kyrie Irving's was silky smooth right from the start. He fired in his first five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 30 points. The Celtics bemoaned the fact they were right in his face on many of his shots and it didn't matter. He still knocked down the shots.

3. I was very impressed with power forward Kevin Love's game. He started 2 of 11 from the field, yet he still finished with 19 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, four assists and one steal. He just kept grinding away. He was 7 of 8 from the foul line. LeBron James said that shows him how aggressive Love was in the game.

4. James had 20 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. He didn't shoot the ball very well - 8 of 18 - and turned the ball over five times. He did a very good job of leading this team, keeping his teammates encouraged and facilitating. When Love was 2 of 11, he was tapping him on the head, keeping him into the game. The Cavs were trailing by seven or eight points in the first half. James huddled the troops and told them everything was going to be OK. Of course, it turned out that way. 

5. Talent normally takes over in games like this. Boston is going to fight this team to the final second of the series. They just don't have the talent to win the series. I picked the Cavs to win in five games. Many other "experts" predicted a sweep. I think the Celtics can win Game 3 when the series shifts to Boston. If they don't win that game, they are cooked. Then the Cavs will sweep.

6. The Cavaliers are one of the NBA's elite teams. The Cavs and Warriors have been established by Las Vegas oddsmakers as favorites to win the NBA title. I'm starting to believe it myself.

7. James has never lost a first-round series in his career. It probably isn't going to happen against Boston, either. He's 9-0 lifetime in the first round. 

8. James is poised to set several playoff milestones. He passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao for career playoff games. James has now played in 72 career playoff games with the Cavs. He's two offensive rebounds shy of passing John "Hot Rod" Williams (99) for fourth place on the Cavs' all-time list. 

9. He's also on the verge of moving up the ranks on the NBA's all-time lists: He's 19 points away from passing Jerry West (4,457) for seventh all-time. He overtook No. 9 Michael Jordan (1,022) on the all-time list for playoff assists. James now has 1,023. He's 15 free throws away from passing Shaquille O'Neal (1,168) for sixth all-time. James is six 3-pointers made from passing Jason Kidd for ninth all-time and three steals from overtaking Robert Horry (276) for 10th all-time.

10. Since the Cavs added J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from New York on Jan. 5, they've led the NBA in 3-pointers made with 11.6 per game. They were 13 of 31 from the arc tonight. 

11. The Cavs have won 21 of their last 22 games at The Q. They ended 31-10 at home during the regular season. Wonder why it's important to get homecourt advantage in the playoffs? Because they play so well at home. They are an NBA-best 35-9 in the last 44 games.

UP NEXT: vs. Boston, Quicken Loans Arena, Game 2 of Eastern Conference playoffs, 7 p.m. Tuesday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 205)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Brandon Bass (6-8, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 225) vs. Avery Bradley (6-2, 180)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Marcus Smart (6-4, 220)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Celtics - G Chris Babb, G/F James Young
OFFICIALS
Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, Zach Zarba

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game 82: Wizards at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (53-29) 113, WASHINGTON WIZARDS (46-36) 108
Quicken Loans Arena
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers' first-round opponent is set. They will take on Boston (40-42) in the best-of-seven series. The first two games will be in Cleveland. Game 1 is 3 p.m. Sunday. Game 2 is 7 p.m. Tuesday.

2. Coach David Blatt wanted his starters to get some "burn" tonight. They all did, with the exception of LeBron James. He skipped the regular-season finale. The Cavs were 3-10 this season without him in the lineup. Guard Kevin Irving played 18 minutes. He still seems a bit bothered by his sore right hip. None of the starters played regular minutes, just enough to stay sharp and keep their rhythm.

3. Tonight was Fan Appreciation Night. The Cavs gave away more than $1 million in prizes, including a new car. The players took the jerseys off their backs and their shoes off after the game and gave them to the fans. It's a popular gesture.

4. I was impressed with guard Matthew Dellavedova tonight. He ended with a season-high 18 points, a career-high 12 assists, three rebounds and two steals. He shot the ball well - 6 of 11 from the field, 4 of 5 from the 3-point line. It's important he holds up his end of the bargain because when Irving is off the floor in the playoffs, Delly can't completely break down.

5. The Wizards played a hard-fought, double-overtime game  with Indiana on Tuesday. They came right back and played in OT against the Cavs. Coach Randy Wittman's club probably needs a day off. They play Atlantic Division champion Toronto in the first round of the playoffs.

6. The Cavs won 20 of their last 21 games at The Q. They ended 31-10 at home this season. It's the 10th time they've won 30 or more home games in franchise history. They've also won 28 of their last 29 games when they score 100 or more points. On the season, they are 42-5 when they top the century mark.

UP NEXT: vs. Boston, Quicken Loans Arena, Game 1 of Eastern Conference playoffs, 3 p.m. Sunday

Cleveland vs. Boston
Game 1 – Sun  April 19  Boston at Cleveland              3PM      ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue  April 21  Boston at Cleveland              7PM      TNT
Game 3 – Thu  April 23  Cleveland at Boston              7PM      TNT
Game 4 – Sun  April 26  Cleveland at Boston              1PM      ABC
Game 5 * Tue  April 28  Boston at Cleveland              TBD      TBD
Game 6 * Thu  April 30  Cleveland at Boston              TBD      TBD
Game 7 * Sat  May 2     Boston at Cleveland              TBD      TNT

STARTERS
SF Mike Miller (6-8, 218) vs. Paul Pierce (6-7, 230)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Drew Gooden (6-10, 230)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Marcin Gortat (6-11, 240)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 225) vs. Bradley Beal (6-5, 207)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Ramon Sessions (6-3, 190)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, F LeBron James
Wizards - G Garrett Temple, F Nene
OFFICIALS
Scott Foster, Kane Fitzgerald, Scott Twardoski



Monday, April 13, 2015

Game 81: Pistons at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (52-29) 109, DETROIT PISTONS (31-50) 97
Quicken Loans Arena
Monday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. Talk about going through the motions. This game had no bearing on the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Cavaliers are locked into the No. 2 playoff seed. The Pistons have been eliminated from the playoff chase in Coach Stan Van Gundy's first year. 

2. The Cavaliers played their starters against the Pistons. They could also start against Washington on Wednesday on Fan Appreciation Night. Guard Kyrie Irving suffered some discomfort in his right hip. It was something that has plagued him for much of the season. He started against the Pistons, but sat in the second half. It's something that will have to be closely monitored. Coach David Blatt's plan is for the starters to play vs. the Wizards just to keep their rhythm and conditioning sharp.

3. LeBron James recorded his second triple-double of the season with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He wouldn't commit to playing against the Wizards on Wednesday. My guess is the starters will be out there for the opening tip, but won't play their normal minutes. It's important to keep their rhythm heading into the postseason. If tonight's game was any indication, they are there.

4. They appear to be ready for the playoffs. They looked like the best team in the league tonight, especially in the first quarter. They pounded the Pistons on the boards. Detroit was ranked fourth in the league in total rebounds coming into last night's game. The Cavs destroyed them on the boards, 45-30. Cavs center Timofey Mozgov was a beast on the boards with 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

5. The Cavs turned the ball over 12 times last night. That's a huge improvement from Sunday's game in Boston when they had a season-high 25 turnovers. I don't see how playing the reserves and turning the ball over that much is getting anyone ready for the playoffs.

6. The Cavs won their 30th game at The Q tonight. It's the 10th time they've won 30 or more games at home in a season. They've also won 19 of their last 20 home games. 

7. The Cavs have made a franchise-record 810 3-pointers this season. They became the 11th team in NBA history to do so. The Hawks and Trail Blazers were right on the Cavs' heels and could also top the 800 mark.

8. This could be the last time the Cavaliers see power forward Greg Monroe in a Pistons' uniform. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and is expected to sign elsewhere. It probably won't be in Cleveland, either.

UP NEXT: vs. Washington, Quicken Loans Arena, 8 p.m. Wednesday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Caron Butler (6-7, 228)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Greg Monroe (6-11, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Andre Drummond (6-11, 279)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 225) vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 205)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Reggie Jackson (6-3, 208)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Pistons - G Spencer Dinwiddie, G Brandon Jennings
OFFICIALS
James Capers, Brian Forte, Marat Kogut

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Game 80: Cavs at Celtics

BOSTON CELTICS (38-42) 117, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (51-29) 78
TD Garden
Sunday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The storyline today was who didn't play: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. The backups that played weren't competitive in the least. Only center Timofey Mozgov started. The Cavaliers are 2-10 without James this season. There's a chance he could sit in the Detroit game on Monday, too. Then, he could play in the regular-season finale on Wednesday and try to maintain his rhythm heading into the postseason. The Cavaliers are obviously not the same team without James.

2. It's all about the big picture now. It's about getting primed for the playoffs. It's about entering the postseason on an optimum level. With the exception of a few nicks and bruises, they are in good health. There are a few things to keep one's eye on, such as James' knees and lower back, Love's back, Irving's hip and guard Iman Shumpert's strained quad. But none of the maladies would keep any of those players out of a postseason game.

3. The Celtics are holding onto the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. If they win their last two games, they'll be the Cavs' first-round opponent in the playoffs. They own the tie-breaker over No. 8 Brooklyn. For now, I'm operating under the premise that it will be the Cavs vs. the Celtics in the first round. The Cavs won't just roll over Boston. They are 1-4 vs. Boston in the playoffs all-time, including the devastating loss in 2010. There is a lot to like about the Celtics and that starts with Coach Brad Stevens. He is one of the league's bright, young coaches. If Mike Krzyzewski ever retires from Duke, rumor has it that the Blue Devils would knock on Stevens' door. That's the ultimate compliment.

4. Boston has won four in a row, including six of the last seven games. The Cavs have won 12 of their last 16 games, as well as 32 of their last 41.

5. The Cavs finished 22-19 on the road this season. It's tied for the third-best mark in franchise history with the 1991-92 team. It was surpassed only twice in their 45-year history: 27-14 in 2008-09 and 26-15 in 2009-10. That's impressive any way you look at it. It's normally a key indicator of a team that can do some serious damage in the postseason.

6. The Cavs shot a brick-like 3 of 22 from behind the arc on Sunday. There were very few superlatives from today's game. They didn't play well in any phase. They turned the ball over so many times - a season-high 25 times - it didn't give them a chance to win.

7. They have made a franchise-best 793 3-pointers this season. If they make seven more, they'll become the 11th team in NBA history with 800 or more 3s in a season.

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

STARTERS
SF Shawn Marion (6-7, 228) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 205)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-10, 238) vs. Brandon Bass (6-8, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250)
SG Iman Shumpert (6-5, 220) vs. Avery Bradley (6-2, 205)
PG Matthew Dellavedova (6-4, 200) vs. Marcus Smart (6-4, 220)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, F Kevin Love
Celtics - G Chris Babb, G/F James Young
OFFICIALS
Bill Kennedy, JT Orr, James Williams

Friday, April 10, 2015

Game 79: Celtics at Cavs

BOSTON CELTICS (37-42) 99, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (51-28) 90
Quicken Loans Arena
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers had a decent chance of winning tonight's game, but they kept thinking about the big picture. In this case, it's all about getting proper rest for the start of the playoffs. Coach David Blatt yanked all his starters for the fourth quarter and went with his reserves. They had helped the Cavs make up a 16-point deficit in the third quarter and take their first lead in the game. But it wasn't to be. The Celtics grabbed a two-point lead after the third quarter, 79-77, and never trailed in the fourth.

2. Boston has moved up to the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They have the same record as No. 8 Brooklyn, but win the tie-breaker with the Nets. If they win their last three games, they'll get rewarded with the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs. That would be an intriguing first-round series, and one the Cavs would probably win in five games. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

3. LeBron James said after the game he probably won't play in Boston on Sunday. He said recently that he usually takes a couple games off before the playoffs. So, he could also sit out another one (Monday vs. Detroit?). I'd play him in the Washington game in the regular-season finale next Wednesday, just so he can keep him rhythm heading into the postseason. The last thing you want to do is interrupt their rhythm heading into the playoffs. That would be detrimental.

4. Despite the loss, they've still won 12 of their last 15 games, as well as 32 of their last 40.

5. The Cavaliers now have the top two scorers in the East in James (third overall at 25.5 points per game) and Irving (ninth at 22). 

6. The Cavaliers are now 18-1 in their last 19 games at The Q. Just one of the 19 foes have scored 100 or more points.

7. Toronto and Chicago have the identical record with three games remaining for the No. 3 playoff seed. However, the Bulls have to finish one game ahead of the Toronto since the Raptors win the tie-breaker. That's pretty important for the Cavs. If the Raptors earn the third seed, that will make the Cavs' road to the NBA Finals a bit easier, in my opinion. The Raptors are a quality team, but they aren't playoff-tested like the Bulls. Whichever team earns the third seed will be favored to win its first-round series. It would then be on the Cavs' side of the bracket for the East playoffs.

8. The Cavaliers dished out 25 assists. It was the 22nd time they have recorded 25 or more assists in a game this season.

9. Tristan Thompson grabbed 12 rebounds. He's averaged 10.8 rebounds in his last four games. He continues to impress.

10. Celtics swingman Evan Turner dished out a career-high 13 assists. The former Ohio State star added six rebounds and four points.

UP NEXT: at Boston, TD Garden, 3 p.m. Sunday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 205)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Brandon Bass (6-8, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Avery Bradley (6-2, 205)
PG Matthew Dellavedova (6-4, 200) vs. Marcus Smart (6-4, 220)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Celtics - G Chris Babb, G/F James Young
OFFICIALS
Bill Spooner, Justin Van Duyne, Gary Zielinski