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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Game 76: Cavs at Magic

Amway Center
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?: The Cavs climbed to two games behind the New York Knicks and struggling Atlanta Hawks for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks moved percentage points (.434 to .432) ahead of the Hawks.

The Cavs have just six games remaining in the season. They might need them all.

They've beaten the Magic seven times in a row, including the last three on the road.

Guard Kyrie Irving returned to the starting lineup, next to shooting guard Dion Waiters. The Cavs are going to let this play out for the rest of the season. They should have been playing together all along.

Someone (Coach Mike Brown?) got it in his head that Irving and Waiters couldn't co-exist in the starting lineup. He dispatched Waiters to the bench. He was drafted to be Irving's sidekick. The only way we can find out if they can play together is to let them play together.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. They were quite good tonight. Waiters had a game-high 26 points, while Irving finished with 17 points, six rebounds and a game-high eight assists.

Jarrett Jack will now come off the bench for the Cavs.

Waiters has averaged 22.2 points and 4.9 assists in the last nine games.

They just dominated the Magic, especially in the front court. Center Spencer Hawes had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Power forward Tristan Thompson had 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavs had three players score 20 or more points.

On the night they got Irving back, they played without their best big in Anderson Varejao, who sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder. It's unfortunate that this guy just can't stay on the court.

I hear from people all the time, "Trade Andy." It's not as simple as that. It would be next to impossible to find a replacement for that kind of production and hustle.

But the fact remains he just can't stay healthy. He's averaging 8.6 points and a team-high 10 rebounds per game.
What that means is Hawes, Thompson and Tyler Zeller must fill the void. They must attack the glass, something they did on Wednesday.

This is a chance for Zeller to get some major minutes. He has played well in spurts this season. He's a quality player. Now's the time to show everyone that.

The Cavs signed Scotty Hopson for the rest of the season. He scored his first NBA points last night.

Forward Anthony Bennett didn't make the trip due to personal reasons. Bennett is ruled out of both games on the road trip. I wouldn't expect Varejao to play in Atlanta, either.

Swingman C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle) and shooting guard Carrick Felix (fractured patella) are also out, probably for the duration.

Now, it's onto Atlanta in the biggest game of the year - to date. They need to knock off the Hawks and pull one game behind them in the playoff race.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Philips Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9. 220) vs. Maurice Harkless (6-9, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Kyle O'Quinn (6-10, 250)
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Nikola Vucevic (7-0, 250)
SG Dion Waiters (6-4, 225) vs. Arron Afflalo (6-5, 215)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Jameer Nelson (6-0, 190)
Cavs - F Anthony Bennett, G Carrick Felix, G/F C.J. Miles
Magic N/A
Bill Spooner, Derrick Collins, Scott Twardoski


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