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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Game 46: Cavs at Knicks

Madison Square Garden
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/TNT

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavs got to air their dirty laundry on national-television. In their first and probably last appearance on TNT in a long, long time, everyone in the country got to see the fractured Cavs.

There is something drastically wrong with this team. By now, you know Coach Mike Brown's aversion to defense. It's almost like the players are just thumbing their nose at the coach and doing just the opposite of what he's preaching.

The Cavs aren't defending, sharing the ball (14 assists), shooting the ball well (36 percent from the field), rebounding (Knicks had a 44-36 edge) or running the fastbreak (outscored 22-8). Other than that, they played well.

Let's add coaching to the blacklist. Whatever the coaches are preaching, the players are ignoring.

TNT analyst Greg Anthony summed it up during the game. "Whenever a team isn't playing hard, there's usually something wrong internally," he said. "There's something wrong in the locker room."

He's right. I don't know what exactly is happening with this team, other than the fact that it isn't a team. It has no chemistry. Players are just doing their own thing.

After they go 0-3 on this road trip, it's probably not going to matter any more. This team is not a playoff team by any sense of the word. They don't belong in the playoffs, and don't deserve to be in the playoffs.

If Cavs general manager Chris Grant is retained after the season, he'll need to clean house with this bunch he's put together. However, that's a big if. Many around the league think he'll be out of work after this season. I'm not totally convinced yet that he'll be fired.

Meanwhile, the Knicks have won four in a row and appear to be straightening themselves out a little bit.

The Cavs are in a free fall. They've lost five of their last six.

They played without center Anderson Varejao again tonight. He's now missed two games - and counting - with the hyperextended left knee. He's been fitted with a knee brace. His defense and rebounding has been missed.

Tyler Zeller made his second consecutive start, and couldn't have played worse. In fact, I'd much rather see Henry Sims at this point.

The Knicks have won five in a row over the Cavs. If any team is going to beat the Knicks right now, it will have to figure out a way to slow down forward Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony scored an NBA-high 62 points against Charlotte on Jan. 24 - the most points ever scored in the 68-year history of the Knicks.

Anthony had a game-high 29 points, 18 in the first quarter. He became the 50th player in NBA history to reach 19,000 career points.

The 6-8 forward is second to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant in scoring at 27.2 per game.

The Knicks were banged up with forward/center Andrea Bargnani, forward/center Amar'e Stoudemire, guard Iman Shumpert and power forward Kenyon Martin sidelined. That meant nothing. The Cavs rarely, if ever, take advantage of a short-handed team.

Forward Anthony Bennett, coming off his best game of his career against New Orleans, was awful. He had four points and two rebounds and made 1 of 6 shots.

This was the first leg of a three-game road trip for the Cavs. It was also their best chance at a victory on the trip. 

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Houston at 8 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Center.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. J.R. Smith (6-6, 210)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Carmelo Anthony (6-8, 235)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Tyson Chandler (7-1, 240)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Pablo Prigioni (6-3, 185)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Raymond Felton (6-1, 205)
Cavs - F/C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Knicks - F/C Andrea Bargnani, F/C Amar'e Stoudemire
Ed Malloy, Marat Kogut, Eric Lewis

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Game 45: Pelicans at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Pelicans have won three in a row. They are missing three key performers, yet they play hard.

Coach Monty Williams doesn't allow them not to. They have a superstar player like the Cavs. Yet, he's about winning. Power forward Anthony Davis is such an impressive player.

Like Kyrie Irving said, "He plays the right way."

Davis had 30 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks. He's so long. He's leading the league in blocked shots.

It didn't help that Anderson Varejao was out of the lineup for the Cavs. He's their best defender and would have guarded the 6-10 Davis for much of the game.

Tristan Thompson was absolutely no match for "The Unibrow." Thompson had five points and five rebounds in 32 minutes. It was a night where he was really needed, too, with Varejao out of the lineup.

We're heard the same old talk from Coach Mike Brown game after game. They didn't play hard. How many times is he going to say that? Do something about it. Shake things up.

Forward Anthony Bennett played his butt off tonight with 15 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes. All were career highs (the rebounds tied his previous high). He's going to be a good player in this league in time. Play the darn kid. Are the Cavs that much better with Earl Clark in the rotation?

Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the draft, should have been playing all along. That's the only way he's going to get better.

The Cavs finished 1-4 in this five-game homestand. This was supposed to be the homestand that spring-boarded their playoff push. I can't believe I even wrote that. This was the homestand that showed what the Cavs are all about.

They don't play as a team. It's all individual stuff.

Now they embark on a three-game road trip that starts in New York and goes through Houston and Dallas. Can they salvage one game on this trip?

Forward Luol Deng was really bad on Tuesday. He had six points, two rebounds and shot 3 of 10 from the field. From afar, he looks like he's lost some of his athleticism. He gets by with his basketball IQ and savvy. It's something to keep your eye on.

Time is running out on the Cavs making their playoff push. It might not ever come.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to New York at 8 p.m. Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Anthony Davis (6-10, 220)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Alexis Ajinca (7-2, 228)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Eric Gordon (6-4, 215)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Brian Roberts (6-1, 173)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Pelicans - F Ryan Anderson
Marc Davis, Dick Bavetta, Matt Boland

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Game 44: Suns at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: These are the kind of games that get coaches fired.

Now, we all know that's probably not going to happen with Mike Brown, largely because he was hand-picked by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

But some of this stuff can't continue to go on. We thought we left all of these things behind when Byron Scott was fired. Instead, the same old stuff is going on.

These players, obviously, aren't listening to what the coaches are saying. Brown said the coaches huddled with the players at halftime, letting them know the good things they did in the first half when they led by 18 points.

Then the second half starts, and the players do the complete opposite.

What exactly is happening? The players must be tuning out what the coaches have to say. After playing so well in the first half when they took a 61-43 lead, I was skeptical if the Cavs were going to hold onto the lead. I even tweeted it out. Sure, it would be best for everyone involved if this team caught fire and started to win.

Instead, it appears to be headed to the lottery again, and heads will likely roll in the offseason.

That third quarter was embarrassing. The Cavs made just 2 of 22 shots (9 percent). They were outscored, 25-6. How can an NBA team score six points in 12 minutes? 

I quickly checked to see if it was an all-time low for the Cavs. That record is four points in a quarter.

To the casual fan, the Suns are a complete unknown. But there's a reason the Suns are the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and have been one of the league's surprise teams.

Much of their success should be traced to Coach Jeff Hornacek, who should garner some recognition for Coach of the Year. He probably won't win it, but he's put in a yeoman's effort. They might not have a lot of recognizable talent, but Hornacek has convinced them to play hard, defend and score at will.

On Jan. 22, the Suns blasted Indiana, 124-100. They shot 68.8 percent from the 3-point line against the league's top defensive.

They are starting a four-game East Coast swing that will continue in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Indiana.

The Suns have won four in a row in the series, as well as six of the last seven. They swept the Cavs last season and in 2010-11.

Suns guard Goran Dragic is a human fastbreak. He's fifth in the NBA with 5.6 fastbreak points per game. He's having an outstanding season and is a natural scorer. He pushes the tempo and penetrates into the key and makes things happen.

Power forward Channing Frye lives at the 3-point line. He drained three consecutive 3s in the pivotal third quarter.

Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson doesn't like defending so far away from the basket.

The Cavs' defense will be tested by the Suns, who are seventh in the league in points scored. The big change is on defense, as Phoenix is in the middle of the pack on that side of the ball. In the past, they just tried to outscore teams. Now, they actually get stops.

This might have been the worst loss of the season for the Cavs, who are in the midst of a five-game homestand. If they can't do more than 1-3 on this homestand, it's going to be a long, long season.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host New Orleans at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. P.J. Tucker (6-6, 235)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Channing Frye (6-11, 255)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Miles Plumlee (6-11, 255)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Gerald Green (6-8, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Goran Dragic (6-3, 195)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Suns - G Eric Bledsoe, C Emeka Okafor
Ron Garretson, Kevin Cutler, Leon Wood

Friday, January 24, 2014

Game 43: Bucks at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Bucks have the worst record in the NBA. Now we can see why.

This is a dreadful unit. They are 4-19 on the road and 1-10 in their last 10 games.

The Cavs led by 26 points at one point, but emptied the entire bench and let it slip to 15 points. Still, the blowout victory was exactly what the Cavs needed.

They are feeling better about themselves. We'll see if it carries over to the Phoenix game on Sunday. The Suns are coming off a victory over Indiana, so, it's going to be a tough one.

The Cavs finally won a game on this five-game homestand. Are they pointed in the right direction? I'm not sure yet. 

They are capable of playing good basketball. In each of the two home losses to Chicago and Dallas, they played very well in stretches. This team is not as consistent as it needs to be, hasn't been all season.

Cavs lead assistant coach Jim Boylan was the Bucks' interim head coach for the last 50 games of the 2012-13 season and went 22-28. He was on Milwaukee’s staff as the lead assistant to Scott Skiles for four seasons. He, obviously, knew the Bucks' strengths and weaknesses better than anyone on staff and had to be instrumental in formulating the game plan.

He had to have had some role in the Bucks scoring just 78 points, a season low for a Cavs' opponent this season.

The Cavs have won their last three games against the Bucks at The Q. That includes a 114-111 overtime win on Dec. 20 when they were lucky to win.

Cavs forward Anthony Bennett played the last 5:14 of the game. He had two points and three rebounds. If he can't play in games like this, when is he going to play? He was 0 of 4 from the field, including a missed dunk.

They lost to the woeful Bucks in Milwaukee on Nov. 6, 109-104. The Bucks are the only reason why the Cavs haven't dropped into the Central Division cellar where they've been the previous three seasons.

The Bucks' starting lineup might be the tallest in the league. Still, the Cavs destroyed the Bucks on the boards, 52-34, including 21-8 on the offensive glass. The 21 offensive rebounds were a season high. In 12 games in January, the Cavs are averaging 14.3 offensive rebounds. On the season, they are averaging 12.5 offensive rebounds.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Phoenix at 6 p.m. Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Ersan Ilyasova (6-10, 235)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. John Henson (6-11, 220)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Ekpe Udoh (6-10, 245)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo (6-9, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Brandon Knight (6-3, 189)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Bucks - G Carlos Delfino, C Zaza Pachulia
Sean Wright, Brent Barnaky, Leroy Richardson

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Game 42: Bulls at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Bulls we are accustomed to are depleted. Missing are former MVP Derrick Rose (knee), glue guy Luol Deng (now with the Cavs), power forward Carlos Boozer (calf) and guard Kirk Hinrich (hamstring).

You think that made any difference to the Bulls? Not in the least.

The Bulls are still a formidable foe, and that can be traced to Coach Tom Thibodeau. The guy is not real warm and fuzzy. He has a gruff exterior, but this guy can coach defense. I believe Mike Brown is a good defensive coach. Thibodeau takes it to a new level. 

The Bulls are second in the NBA in points allowed and third in opponents' field-goal percentage. The Cavs are 21st in points allowed and 16th in field-goal percentage. Can you see any difference there?

There was a big difference on Wednesday. The Bulls limited the Cavs to 38 percent shooting from the field. The Bulls shot 53 percent from the floor, 65 percent in the second half.

Their execution is always something that bothers the Cavs. 

Bulls center Joakim Noah also bothered the Cavs. He had nine points, a game-high 18 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal. He had some tough rebounds in traffic. He dominated the boards with 15 defensive rebounds.

Cavs center Anderson Varejao had a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He had as many assists as Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack tonight.

Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson? He just wasn't up for the challenge tonight. He was absolutely shredded by Taj Gibson, who matched his career high with 26 points. Almost all of them came on perimeter jumpers. He was so open out on the floor, he could have send a Tweet before shooting the ball.

Thompson just doesn't like going out on the floor to guard his man. He's most effective in the paint. He ended with just six points and seven rebounds.

Gibson, starting in place of Carlos Boozer, made 11 of 15 shots. Coupled with small forward Mike Dunleavy's 9 of 14, the two players were a combined 20 of 29 from the floor.

Are you getting the message here? The Cavs just didn't defend. My gosh they talk a good game about stopping the other teams. They just don't do it. They are not even in the same zip code of the Bulls. Thibodeau insists the Bulls play "D," or they sit next to him on the bench.

The focus coming into the game was on Deng, making his first appearance against his old team. Truth be told, Deng couldn't have been worse. He did have 11 points and five rebounds, but he wasn't that effective and productive player we've seen thus far. He was just 2 of 11 from the floor.

The Cavs' bench outscored the Bulls, 26-4. That was because Thibodeau didn't have anyone on the bench worth playing. Rookie Tony Snell played 18 scoreless minutes. Nazr Mohammed and Mike James (signed to a 10-day contract on Wednesday) also played, but did nothing. 

Thibodeau rode his starters hard, but they responded like they usually do. The Cavs, meanwhile, bumbled along like they usually do. This is just not working. Why is this such a mess? Is it Irving? Waiters?

This team just doesn't play team basketball. It's made up of too many one-on-one players. Waiters had 13 of his 15 points in the last eight minutes or so. They were all get-out-of-the-way points. All one-on-one, his strength.

Perhaps Cavs general manager Chris Grant needs to do some more wheeling and dealing. Something is drastically wrong with this team. It all lands in the lap of Coach Mike Brown, whether that's fair or not.

If the Cavs keep playing like they have, they'll lose to the Bucks on Friday. It doesn't matter that the Bucks have the worst record in the NBA.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Mike Dunleavy (6-9, 230)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Taj Gibson (6-9, 225)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Joakim Noah (6-11, 232)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Jimmy Butler (6-7, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. D.J. Augustin (6-0, 183)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Bulls - G Derrick Rose, G Kirk Hinrich
Michael Smith, Derek Richardson, Kevin Scott

Monday, January 20, 2014

Game 41: Mavericks at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: This marks the halfway point of the Cavs' up-and-down season. Just when you start to feel good about this team, it falters once again.

While talking to Cavs forward Luol Deng before the game, he stressed that it's obvious this team has talent. Legit talent.

Then why is it so inconsistent on both ends of the floor? Cavs coach Mike Brown has stressed they are a defensive-first team. That might be the plan, but this is an offensive team, plain and simple.

They have a few players that defend: Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and possibly Deng. But most of the team is made up of offensive players: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters (who didn't show up Sunday), C.J. Miles and Earl Clark.

The Cavs came into Monday's game having won four of their last six games. They were 3-2 on the West Coast trip, which was uplifting.

They were heading into this five-game homestand playing their best basketball of the season.

Speaking of playing well, Varejao continues to amaze. He posted his 10th double-double of the season with 18 points, a game-high 21 rebounds, four assists and two steals. He now has 475 steals and passed No. 8 John Bagley on the Cavs' all-time list.

He had at least 20 rebounds for the fifth time in his career. He has grabbed 11 or more rebounds in 11 of the last 12 games. Since Dec. 29, he's averaging 14.8 rebounds.

I tip my cap to him. He continues to play his butt off.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Chicago at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Shawn Marion (6-7, 228)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Dirk Nowitzki (7-0, 245)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Samuel Dalembert (6-11, 250)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Monta Ellis (6-3, 185)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Jose Calderon (6-3, 200)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Mavericks - G Ricky Ledo, G Gal Mekel
Danny Crawford, David Guthrie, Dedric Taylor

Friday, January 17, 2014

Game 40: Cavs at Nuggets

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: This 3-2 record on their West Coast trip could be the turning point in the Cavs' season.

This was quite an accomplishment for the Cavs, who improved to 5-17 on the road this season. This was impressive, especially after they were blown out by 44 points in Sacramento on the second game of the trip.

They were quite competitive in the other four games on the trip. Even in the loss to Portland, they were right there before succumbing late to the Trail Blazers.

The Cavs took control of Friday's game with a 42-point second quarter. They also rang up a season-high 69 points in the first half.

Guard Kyrie Irving came to play against the Nuggets. He had 23 points, which matched Wilson Chandler for game-high honors. Irving had four rebounds, six assists and a block. He shot well from the field, too, with 9 of 16 attempts from the field.

His big game was needed, too. It seemed like forward Luol Deng had an off night, but he finished with 18 points.

The star of the game for the Cavs was power forward Tristan Thompson, who ended with 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. In two games against the Nuggets, he has averaged 18.5 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Maybe he should face off against Kenneth Faried every game. He certainly gets up for the matchup.

Center Anderson Varejao was a beast on the boards with 16 rebounds.

The Nuggets had won 10 of the last 13 games against the Cavs at the Pepsi Center dating back to 2000-01. Blame it on the altitude 

Denver had been on a hot streak, too, having won six of their last seven before Friday. They also had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

The Cavs return home for a five-game homestand. It's time to make their move.

The Nuggets list point guard Andre Miller as "not with team." The former Cavs standout is unhappy with Coach Brian Shaw and has chose to go home. They'll likely include him in a trade.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Dallas at 1 p.m. Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Wilson Chandler (6-8, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Kenneth Faried (6-8, 228)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. J.J. Hickson (6-9, 242)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Randy Foye (6-4, 213)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Ty Lawson (6-2, 200)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Nuggets - F Danilo Gallinaro, C JaVale McGee
Tom Washington, Karl Lane, Mark Lindsay\

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Game 39: Cavs at Trail Blazers

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Trail Blazers are one of the top teams in the NBA. The Cavs went toe-to-toe with the Blazers until the last three minutes.

Center Anderson Varejao's tip-in with 2:54 to play knotted the score at 96. The Cavs didn't score again in the game, as the Blazers closed the game by scoring 12 unanswered points.

The Cavs missed their last six field-goal attempts. It would have been a signature victory for the Cavs, but it wasn't to be.

The Blazers are now 16-4 at home this season.

The last time these two teams clashed, it was an instant classic. The Trail Blazers nipped the Cavs, 119-116, on Dec. 17 at Quicken Loans Arena. Point guard Damian Lillard played out of his mind with 36 points and 10 assists, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining. He wasn't too shabby on Wednesday, either, with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists.

He, obviously, got up for his matchup against Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving, in line to start in the All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference. 

Irving was very good in that game, too, with 25 points and 10 assists. He managed 21 points for the Cavs on Wednesday, but was 7 of 20 from the field, 1 of 7 from the 3-point line.

The Blazers have a lot of firepower, led by All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with a game-high 32 points and 18 rebounds. He's one of the very best players in the league and is a bonafide MVP candidate.

Despite his superior size, what makes his so dangerous is his ability to step out on the floor for the 18-foot jumper. Most big men don't want to venture out on the floor to cover him. He had a huge 3 with the shot clock running out on Wednesday. It was his lone 3 of the season.

The Cavs just didn't have anyone who could keep up with Aldridge, who said recently he'd like to sign long term with the Blazers. 

The previous three games between the two teams have been decided by five points or fewer. The Cavs upset Portland on the road last year. However, it's their only win in the last seven games in the series.

I had a sneaking feeling the Cavs were going to show up on Wednesday. They've now won three of their last five games. They are also 2-2 on this five-game, eight-day West Coast trip.

The sojourn concludes on Friday in Denver. They need to knock off the Nuggets to salvage a winning record on the trip.

The Cavs 4-17 on the road this season.

Portland's Terry Stotts is going to get strong consideration for Coach of the Year. He added former Cavs assistant Nate Tibbetts to his staff in the offseason.

Cavs forward Luol Deng was very good on Wednesday with a team-high 25 points. He had 52 points in the back-to-back games vs. the Lakers and Blazers.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Denver at 9 p.m. Friday at Pepsi Center.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Nicolas Batum (6-8, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (6-11, 250)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Robin Lopez (7-0, 265)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Wesley Matthews (6-5, 214)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Damian Lillard (6-3, 195)
Cavs - G Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Trail Blazers - F Victor Claver, G Allen Crabbe
Tony Brothers, Pat Fraher, Scott Twardoski

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Game 38: Cavs at Lakers

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: You think things are going badly for the Cavs, take a look at the Lakers. The proud franchise that has won 16 NBA championships has lost five in a row, as well as 11 of their last 12 games.

The Lakers' injury list could probably make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They are missing their starting backcourt of Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee) and Steve Nash (nerve foot irritation).

But several key reserves are also out, including point guards Steve Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament) and Jordan Farmar (left hamstring tear). That caused them to go out and sign D-League point guard Kendall Marshall, a former first-round pick in Phoenix. The offensively challenged Marshall dished out 16 assists on Tuesday.

Shooting guard Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise) is also out. The good news is that valuable swingman Nick Young (sore back) was able to play, and play he did. He led all scorers with 28 points.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's team has a built-in excuse for all this poor play (they lost to the LA Clippers last Friday by 36 points).

The Cavs don't have much of an excuse.

They were pummeled by the Kings by 44 points on Sunday. They responded with a solid effort against the Lakers, the second quarter not withstanding. The Lakers scored 40 points on the Cavs in the second quarter and took a 63-57 lead at halftime.

Newly acquired forward Luol Deng got the Cavs off and rolling in the third quarter with three 3-point goals. He's not known as much of a long-range shooter, but he was 5 of 5 from behind the arc against the Lakers.

Deng scored 27 points for the Cavs. He added five rebounds, four assists and a steal. That's the kind of games he's capable of playing. He's so valuable to the Cavs, largely because of his spirited play.

Speaking of spirited play, Cavs center Anderson Varejao was outstanding with 18 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. The points and assists matched his season highs. He got up for the matchup against Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol.

I was thinking during the game, none of us know just how close Gasol came to playing for the Cavs. It might have been a possibility. I'm glad they got Deng instead. He's a better fit.

Gasol is a talented big man, as his 20 points and 12 rebounds can attest. 

The Cavs are now 2-1 on this five-game, eight-day West Coast trip. Winning this game was imperative, since they play in Portland on Wednesday, a nasty back-to-back. They will be huge underdogs at the Rose Garden.

The Cavs got a good effort from shooting guard Dion Waiters with 17 points, 13 in the fourth quarter. That was needed, too, since Kyrie Irving was saddled with five personal fouls and was limited to just 30 minutes on the night.

The Cavs' long-range shooting was wildly effective, as they shot a season-high 77 percent from behind the arc (13 of 17). You're not going to see that kind of prowess from downtown very often in a game.

Don't look now, but the Cavs are just 1 1/2 games out of the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte (16-23) is currently the eighth seed in the East.

They are now 4-16 on the road this season. They need to split one of the remaining two games on the trip - at Portland on Wednesday or at Denver on Friday - for it to be a successful 3-2 trip.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Portland at 10 p.m. Wednesday at Rose Garden.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Wesley Johnson (6-7, 215)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Pau Gasol (7-0, 275)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Robert Sacre (7-0, 260)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Jodie Meeks (6-4, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kendall Marshall (6-4, 195)
Cavs - C Henry Sims, G Carrick Felix
Lakers - G Kobe Bryant, G Steve Nash
Ed Malloy, Leroy Richardson, Josh Tiven

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Game 37: Cavs at Kings

Sleep Train Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: Maybe this playoff push might not happen after all.

This was an absolute embarrassment. This isn't the Oklahoma City Thunder the Cavs were playing. It was a team that was 10 games under .500 at the beginning of the day. They are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.

The Kings just dismantled the Cavs. They pounded them on the boards. They held the Cavs to 38.8 percent shooting from the field.

Most notably, they stopped Kyrie Irving, who shot 3 of 14 from the field en route to seven points. Irving was totally outplayed by Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 26 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals.

The Cavs haven't proven they can win without a big night from Irving. He just didn't show up on Sunday.

The Cavs got 72 points from Irving, C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters in their win over Utah on Friday. That quartet managed 27 on Sunday. The four of them barely outscored the Kings' 5-9 point guard, 27-26, in the game.

Cavs forward Luol Deng managed 12 points and five rebounds. He was really no factor in the game. He did bump knees with a Kings player and took a seat for good in the third quarter.

Kings power forward Jason Thompson really put a hurting on the Cavs with eight points, a game-high 16 rebounds and two blocks. The power forward matchup with Tristan Thompson was a complete mismatch. Tristan Thompson had six points and three rebounds.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most talented big men the Cavs will face this year. The 6-11, 270-pounder is seventh in the NBA in scoring (23.5 points per game), fifth in rebounding (11.5) and sixth in steals (1.91). Only Minnesota's Kevin Love can match those numbers in the entire NBA.

Cousins ended with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

This guy is a load. The Kings get up and down the court and score points in bunches. They've scored 100 or more points in 12 consecutive games. They did whatever they wanted to do against the Cavs.

The Kings bring shooting guard Ben McLemore, their first-round pick, off the bench. I really wanted to get a look at this kid. I thought the Cavs had some interest in him with the No. 1 overall pick. Instead, they picked Anthony Bennett. Let's just say Bennett needs some polishing. McLemore ended with nine points.

Kings coach Mike Malone spent five seasons in Cleveland as an assistant coach with the Cavs under Mike Brown. They know each other well. Malone, the son of former Cavs interim head coach Brendan Malone, got the best of this matchup on Sunday. He had the Kings ready to play.

Also, Chris Jent is on his staff. He was an assistant with the Cavs and Ohio State before joining Malone.

The Kings now have won three in a row for the first time in two seasons. The Cavs had a two-game winning streak snapped. They are now 3-16 on the road.

They know it's time to make their move if they are going to make it. Other teams like Brooklyn and New York are also starting to pick it up, so this was an important game. The 44-point loss was their most lopsided of the season, but not a team record. That came in Los Angeles during a 55-point defeat the Lakers a couple years ago. Strangely enough, that's where they are headed next.

The Kings have now won three in a row over the Cavs. In fact, they may be a better team.

The Cavs are 1-1 on their five-game, eight-day West Coast trip.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at Staples Center.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Rudy Gay (6-8, 230)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Jason Thompson (6-11, 250)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 270)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Isaiah Thomas (5-9, 185)
Cavs - C Henry Sims, G Carrick Felix
Kings - F Carl Landry
Ken Mauer, Kevin Cutler, Tre Maddox

Friday, January 10, 2014

Game 36: Cavs at Jazz

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (13-23) 113, UTAH JAZZ (12-26) 102
EnergySolutions Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: This was a highly anticipated game for Cavs fans. They unveiled their new small forward, Luol Deng, who was acquired from Chicago on Monday.

He had just 10 points in 21 minutes. The Cavs wanted to restrict his minutes to keep an eye on his achy Achilles' tendon. Deng has brought a new attitude to the team. It's uplifting. I can't wait to see them play at Sacramento on Sunday.

Finally, they've upgraded the small forward position. They tried to upgrade over the summer with the signing of Earl Clark, who turned out to be a taller version of Alonzo Gee. That's not completely fair, as Clark does have the ability to shoot the deep ball from behind the arc.

Clark will move to the bench as Deng's backup, where he belongs. Gee will probably not play at all.

Coach Mike Brown said he was amped to finally see Deng play in a Cavs uniform. I agree completely. This guy can not only shoot, he can post-up, rebound and he defends his rear end off. I've always loved his game from afar.

The Bulls had been saying all along that they were going to try to re-sign him in the offseason. I guess that could still happen unless the Cavs are able to sign him to an extension in-season. They really have to try to get that done. Once he reaches free agency, he probably will get better offers.

The Bulls offered him an extension - one that he wasn't going to accept - and once he said no, they traded him.

Deng's first game with the Cavs will draw the headlines. The game was won in the third quarter when the Cavs laid a season-high 39 points on the Jazz. Guard Kyrie Irving caught fire in the third quarter. He had five points in the first half. He finished with 25 points, six rebounds, eight assists and a season-high five steals.

In all, the Cavs had seven players in double figures. The Cavs got 72 points from guards Irving, C.J. Miles (17), Dion Waiters (17) and Jarrett Jack (12).

The Jazz have the worst record in the Western Conference. However, they aren't bad at home at 7-11. Remember, the Cavs have been putrid on the road up until now. They are now 3-15. They snapped a five-game losing streak on the road.

But they have a renewed optimism. It's time to make their move - if they are going to make it. They are a much better team than they've shown up until now. 

Play like it.

They snapped a four-game losing streak in Utah. Their last win before Friday in Salt Lake City came on Jan. 24, 2009.

Miles is returning to his old stomping ground in Utah on an absolute tear. He's averaging 21 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in his last five games. If he continues to shoot like he has, the Cavs will be a legitimate team.

It appears as if struggling rookie Anthony Bennett has dropped out of Coach Mike Brown's rotation. That might be a good thing right now. 

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Sacramento at 6 p.m. Sunday at Sleep Train Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Richard Jefferson (6-7, 234)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Marvin Williams (6-9, 237)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Derrick Favors (6-10, 268)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Alec Burks (6-6, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Trey Burke (6-1, 190)
Cavs - C Henry Sims, G Carrick Felix
Jazz - C Rudy Gobert, G Ian Clark
Marc Davis, Courtney Kirkland, Ben Taylor