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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Game 60: Jazz at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (24-36) 99, UTAH JAZZ (21-37) 79
Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavs are coming off their biggest win of the season, 114-104, over the Western Conference's best team - the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Many wanted to see how they'd fare against one of the West's worst teams. The Cavs dismantled the Utah Jazz on Friday in a 20-point victory. They've now won three in a row over Utah, and swept the season series.

Three things jumped out at me in Friday's game:

-- The Cavs totally dominated the boards, 56-31. That's a plus-25, which is very uncommon in the NBA. Spencer Hawes, who was guarded by Marvin Williams for much of the game, led all rebounders with 16. That matched his season high. Tristan Thompson added 14 rebounds, Kyrie Irving 10 and Tyler Zeller nine.

-- The Cavs played suffocating defense and held the Jazz to 35 percent shooting. Don't know if you've noticed, but they are really getting after people on the defensive end. Why it took 60 games into the season for the players to start listening to what Coach Mike Brown has been saying all year, I don't know. But it's happening now.

-- Guard Kyrie Irving was sensation - for the second game in a row - with his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and a block.

After three quarters, he was right at the doorstep. We tracked every rebound he got in the fourth. When he finally got the triple-double with 4:12 left, Brown took him out soon thereafter. It brought back memories of LeBron James, at least for one night. He had the last 34 triple-doubles before Irving snapped that streak.

There have been 50 triple-doubles in franchise history, by 10 different players. I think Foots Walker, a scout for the Cavs, had the first triple-double in team history, at least the first one recorded.

The Jazz have a strong frontcourt, led by Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Neither player showed up on the boards on Friday. That was very impressive.

Jazz sugard Gordon Hayward, who missed the first meeting with the Cavs, had 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. He is an outstanding player.

But he was about the only threat the Cavs had to worry about. Rookie guard Trey Burke got about 25 tickets for friends and family from Columbus. He was no match for Irving on the night.

The Cavs have won two in a row, as well as eight of their last 11. It's going to be a rugged game in Memphis on Saturday. They won't have Anderson Varejao to hound Zach Randolph on Saturday. He went after him in the first meeting.

I'm predicting right now that Varejao returns for the San Antonio game on Tuesday. Let's see how my Nostradamus-like prediction works out. 

There's no way Brown can take Hawes out of the starting lineup. I wouldn't mess with Tristan Thompson, either. I'd bring Varejao off the bench with Tyler Zeller. That doesn't leave any minutes for Anthony Bennett, but it's about winning games right now.

The Cavs are 3 1/2 games behind No. 8 seed Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the East. the Cavs have 22 games remaining.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Memphis at 9 p.m. Saturday at FedEx Forum.

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 Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Derrick Favors (6-10, 268)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Gordon Hayward (6-8, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Trey Burke (6-1, 190)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Jazz G Ian Clark, F Malcolm Thomas
Joe Crawford, Eric Lewis, Derek Richardson

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Game 59: Cavs at Thunder

Chesapeake Energy Arena
8 p.m. Wednesday
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: We just witnessed the Cavs' signature win of the season.

They went into Oklahoma City and beat the team with the best record in the Western Conference, second best in the NBA. This is a legitimate NBA title contender.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was sensational with 31 points, five rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

The difference in the game was the play of guard Jarrett Jack. He had a season-high 21 points, three rebounds and four assists. Where has that kind of play been all season? The Cavs have been desperate for that kind of effort. They got it tonight, as Jack made 3 of 7 3-point goals.

The Thunder took a 12-point lead, but instead of panicking, they fought back. They battled. They outscored the Thunder in the fourth quarter, 42-28.

Those 42 points tied a season high for the Cavs in a quarter. If they would have executed like that in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, they would have beaten the Raptors. Against OKC, they shot 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth (14 of 21).

All five starters scored in double figures for the Cavs, Center Spencer Hawes finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. 

The Cavs shot 46.5 percent from the field. When they make shots, they're hard to beat.

They didn't exactly shut down the Thunder, just beat them at their own game. Forward Kevin Durant, who came into the game leading the NBA in scoring at 31.7 points per game, was "held" to 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He seemed like he had a quiet 28 points, if that's possible.

He's a legitimate MVP candidate.

Guard Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine assists.

Forward Serge Ibaka was a beast around the basket with 16 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and four blocks.

Still, the Thunder lost their third game in a row, the last two without center Kendrick Perkins, who has a groin injury.

The Cavs snapped their three-game losing streak. They've won two of the last three games at OKC. They've also won seven of their last 10 meetings against the Thunder.

It's hard to explain. Impossible.

The Cavs, who have won seven of their last 10 games, are four games behind No. 8 seed Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

The Cavs have just 23 games remaining. Can they hang in the playoff race? The players still believe. So, yes, it's possible.

They won for the first time with all three of their injured players - Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles - out of the lineup. I have a feeling Varejao could be back soon, perhaps this weekend. But that's just me talking.

He sure didn't look banged up after the game on Tuesday when I saw him outside the locker room. I'm sure he's champing at the bit to get back on the court.

He's really been missed by the Cavs. They miss his intensity, energy, rebounding and his curly locks (I was just seeing if you were paying attention). 

The Cavs will likely be off on Thursday and host lowly Utah on Friday.

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

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Kevin Durant (6-9, 240)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Serge Ibaka (6-10, 245)
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Steven Adams (7-0, 255)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Thabo Sefolosha (6-7, 222)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Russell Westbrook (6-3, 200)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Thunder - C Kendrick Perkins
Marc Davis, Dick Bavetta, Scott Wall

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Game 58: Raptors at Cavs

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

WHAT HAPPEN?: Guys, it's just about over.

I don't want to be the naysayer, but the Cavs are five games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 24 to play.

I would have love to cover playoff basketball again. It seems like an eternity since the Cavs were in the postseason (2010). It doesn't appear as if we'll see it this year.

What happens if they don't make the playoffs? Owner Dan Gilbert might blow it up and get rid of the entire bunch - GM, front office and coaching staff.

I don't think that's what will happen, but I honestly don't know.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey has his team playing like many thought the Cavs would play. They are scrappy. They defend. And they are well-coached. Casey is on the last year of his deal. Toronto almost has to re-sign him now.

They are leading the Atlantic Division and are the third seed in the East.

Heck, Casey might get some Coach of the Year votes (well, maybe a few).

The Cavs, meanwhile, flew to Oklahoma City after the game. Most people expect them to get annihilated.

They will be missing their three key players in Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles. They haven't learned how to win without the trio. That's just too much firepower to overcome for the Cavs. Their outside shooting has completely gone in the dumper without Waiters and Miles.

They played hard against the Raptors. They just didn't execute as flawlessly as the Raptors did on Tuesday.

Every time I see Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. When there's a center sitting on the board like there was in the 2011 NBA draft, you pounce on him. 

The Cavs passed on Valanciunas and Andre Drummond in back-to-back drafts. How did that work out for them? 

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Terrence Ross (6-6, 195)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Amir Johnson (6-9, 210)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (6-11, 231)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. DeMar DeRozan (6-7, 216)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kyle Lowry (6-0, 205)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Raptors G Dwight Buycks, G Juylan Stone
Bill Kennedy, Tre Maddox, James Williams

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Game 57: Wizards at Cavs

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: For the first time in quite a while, I'm starting to think the playoffs might be a figment of our imagination.

They have to make up five games with 25 to play with the toughest part of the schedule still to be played. Have you looked at their schedule in March?

They have now lost two in a row with rough games against Toronto and at Oklahoma City coming up. Their biggest problem is the fact that three of their top seven players are sidelined with injuries.

That includes their starting center in Anderson Varejao. Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes are capable players, but neither of them provide the kind of rebounding and defense that Varejao provides.

Dion Waiters is the Cavs' best shooting guard. He should have been starting all along, in my opinion. Like I've written numerous times, the Jarrett Jack experiment has run its course. Coach Mike Brown has to start Jack right now. There are no viable options.

But when Waiters and C.J. Miles return - that could be a while judging from the way Miles is limping around - one of them should be inserted into the starting lineup.

Jack is a backup player, a good one at that. He can't hang with many starting guards, especially explosive ones like John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Right now, when Brown dips down into his bench, the only perimeter options are Alonzo Gee and Matthew Dellavedova, and neither one of them can make a shot. He has rookie Sergey Karasev on the bench, but he refuses to play him when it matters.

On the bright side, newcomer Hawes is getting more comfortable with his new surroundings. He finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday.

He's now averaging 11.5 points, 11 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his two games with the Cavs. They'll definitely take that.

Tyler Zeller has remained in the starting lineup. He had six points, four rebounds and a block in the first quarter. He didn't have a point, rebound or block thereafter. Now you know why he played seven minutes the rest of the game.

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

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Trevor Ariza (6-8, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Nene (6-11, 250)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Marcin Gortat (6-11, 240)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Bradley Beal (6-5, 207)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. John Wall (6-4, 207)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Wizards G/F Glen Rice
Mike Callahan, Bennie Adams, Scott Twardoski

Friday, February 21, 2014

Game 56: Cavs at Raptors

Air Canada Centre
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavs' six-game winning streak, longest current streak in the NBA, came to an end. The Cavs were extremely short-handed, as they were missing starting center Anderson Varejao (sore back/general soreness), sixth man Dion Waiters (hyperextended left knee) and valuable bench scoring threat C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle).

That was too much to overcome to a team leading the Atlantic Division.

The game marked center Spencer Hawes' first game with the Cavs. He came off the bench and had seven points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 27 minutes. Not bad for the newcomer. He was just 3 of 10 from the field, 1 of 3 from the 3-point line.

Picking up Hawes was a shrewd move by Cavs Acting General Manager David Griffin. It might be just for the rest of the season, a 29-game rental, if you will, but another big was needed with the uncertainty surrounding Varejao.

Remember, this team is gunning for the playoffs.

Hawes is more of a finesse player. He can shoot from the perimeter in the Dirk Nowitzki/Andrea Bargnani mold. I'm not thrilled with my center shooting 3s, but that's how the NBA has evolved. He's shooting 39.9 percent from beyond the arc.

What the Cavs like about his game is that he'll spread the floor, creating driving lanes for Luol Deng and others.

The Cavs had to forfeit forward Earl Clark and center Henry Sims in the Hawes' trade. No one is going to miss Clark. He played with absolutely no passion. Sims? That's another matter. Whenever he got minutes, he produced. He was also a neat guy. I remember him telling me and the Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade in the preseason, "Call me Hank." Just liked him. He was a tough kid and wasn't afraid to knock someone on his butt.

The Cavs just couldn't make shots with any regularity on the night. The Raptors are very aggressive defensively. They held the Cavs to 39 percent shooting.

The Cavs hadn't lost a game since Feb. 5 - a span of 16 days. It was fun while it lasted. The injury bug just caught up with them.

Their undoing occurred in the third quarter when they were outscored, 37-21. The Raptors' intensity picked up after halftime. The Cavs did everything in their power to keep the game close. They came close to getting blown out of the gym in the third.

The Raptors, the third seed in the Eastern Conference, are deep and talented. Besides All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, there are some who thought point guard Kyle Lowry belonged in New Orleans as well. His job tonight was to run the team and make life miserable for Kyrie Irving.

Irving made just 3 of 16 shots from the field. Miserable night shooting the ball. Coupled with Jarrett Jack's 3 of 9, their starting backcourt shot 6 of 25 from the field. I know Coach Mike Brown doesn't have any options right now, but the Jack experiment as a starter has definitely run its course.

Once Waiters or Miles return, stick them in there and bring Jack off the bench. 

Forward Luol Deng had 21 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs, and he couldn't make a shot, either. He was just 6 of 15. It was that kind of night for the Cavs.

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

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Terrence Ross (6-6, 195)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Amir Johnson (6-9, 235)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (6-11, 231)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. DeMar DeRozan (6-7, 216)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kyle Lowry (6-0, 205)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Raptors G Dwight Buycks, G Nano De Colo
Bennett Salvatore, Nick Buchert, Sean Corbin

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Game 55: Magic at Cavs

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: After the game, I asked Cavs coach Mike Brown if he thought about the fact that the team he coached on Wednesday might not be the same one he coaches on Friday in Toronto.

Of course, he refused to go there. He's not able to delve into the abstract.

The trade deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday. The Cavs appear to be trying hard to ship guard Jarrett Jack out of town. After the game, Cavs Acting General Manager David Griffin was talking with Jack in hushed tones in the hallway outside the locker room.

What exactly were they saying? I have no idea. But there was something going on. We know that he probably won't be going back to Golden State, which traded for Lakers point guard Steve Blake.

Sacramento seems interested in Jack. Power forward Jason Thompson might be coming to the Cavs in a possible deal, although he could be part of a three-way trade. The Cavs already have Tristan Thompson at power forward, even though Jason is a bit taller at 6-11.

I'm guessing that Griffin is able to do something by the deadline. The Cavs are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference with a six-game winning streak.

That streak could come to an end on Friday in Toronto. Let's take a look at that game. The Cavs could be without center Anderson Varejao (sore back/general soreness), shooting guard Dion Waiters (hyperextended left knee) and swingman C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle).

That doesn't do much for the Cavs' bench.

And, if the Cavs deal Jack, they might be forced to start Matthew Dellavedova at shooting guard against the Raptors.

The Magic dropped to 3-25 on the road this season. They've lost 14 in a row on the road, starting with a loss to the Cavs on Jan. 2.

Yet, they were within two points on two different occasions in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. The Cavs squandered a 21-point lead in the third quarter.

They missed Waiters on Wednesday, especially his scoring ability. He said there is no structural damage, but he's in a lot of pain. He's going to miss some time, which is unfortunate. He's been playing very well and giving the Cavs a major spark off the bench.

The Cavs are going to wait until all three players are 100 percent healthy. They don't want to bring them back too soon. 

I've got to tip my cap to Cavs center Tyler Zeller, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks. I'm impressed with the way he's been playing.

We'll see how he does against Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas on Friday. It will be a stern test. He held is own against Orlando's Nikola Vucevic, but he really doesn't defend. He's more of a finesse player. Valanciunas isn't. He's a tough hombre.

Cavs forward Anthony Bennett ended with seven points and nine rebounds. He's continued to play well with two double-doubles in his last four games. He's really making his move. Fans are starting to see what ex-Cavs General Manager Chris Grant saw in him to make him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Toronto at 7 p.m. Friday at Air Canada Centre.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Tobias Harris (6-9, 235)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Glen Davis (6-9, 289)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Nikola Vucevic (7-0, 250)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Arron Afflalo (6-5, 215)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Jameer Nelson (6-0, 190)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Magic - N/A
Michael Smith, Kevin Cutler, Josh Tiven

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Game 54: Cavs at Sixers

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavs extended their winning streak to five games in a row. The 29-point victory is the largest margin of victory in the post-LeBron James era, according to ESPN Stats and Info. They host Orlando on Wednesday with a chance to stretch their streak to six in a row.

The only negative was the hyperextended left knee suffered by guard Dion Waiters, who was injured after a dunk in traffic. Waiters is expected to miss some time, perhaps as much as a week.

He had 14 points, four rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes against the hapless Sixers.

These are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Sixers are in tank mode and have lost nine in a row, including eight at home.

The front office is auctioning off their top three players to the highest bidder: Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes.

The Cavs apparently have some interest in Turner, a former star at Ohio State, but probably not at the expense of a first-round pick.

Wells Fargo Center hasn't been friendly to the Cavs, as they had lost five in a row on the road in this rivalry. However, they won the season series against Philadelphia, 3-1.

Center Anderson Varejao remains out of the lineup with a sore back/general soreness. I assumed the reason he sat out the last two games before the break was that he'd be ready for the Sixers.

Evidently, it's a little more serious than they are letting on. Imagine that. The Cavs will say they are just being cautious with Varejao. It was only a matter of time before he got injured. He might return against the Magic on Wednesday - or he may not. 

Tyler Zeller had his best game as a pro on Tuesday with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. He got off to a fast start and never looked back.

The Cavs led by 34 points at one point. They shot 46 percent from the field and held the Sixers to 36 percent. They also pounded the Sixers on the boards, 61-44. The total rebounds are a season high.

They had three players record double-doubles: Zeller, power forward Tristan Thompson (12 points, 10 rebounds) and power forward Anthony Bennett (10 points, 11 rebounds). Both players are playing inspired basketball.

The time is right for this team to finally make its push for the playoffs - if they are going to make it.

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

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Evan Turner (6-7, 216)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Thaddeus Young (6-8, 230)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. James Anderson (6-6, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Michael Carter-Williams (6-6, 185)
Cavs - G/F Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
76ers C Nerlens Noel, F/C Brandon Davies, Jason Richardson
James Capers, Dick Bavetta, Leon Wood

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Game 53: Cavs at Pistons

The Palace of Auburn Hills
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: There's only one bad thing about the Cavs' four-game winning streak. They will now sit for five days before they return to practice Monday night at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Unlike him, Cavs coach Mike Brown said he wants each of his players to stay active during the break.

"Hopefully, everyone does something over the break, and they don't go home and eat food like I'm going to do," he joked.

Like the rest of the team and staff, he was in a jovial mood after the game. For the first time in a long time, they are having fun on the court.

I have to be honest with you, the way this game started, it looked like the Pistons were going to blow the Cavs right out of The Palace.

Their bigs were just dominant early on, especially Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Josh Smith picked it up as the game wore on.

Tyler Zeller was having problems with Drummond. Tristan Thompson couldn't handle Monroe. The Pistons were just getting every rebound.

But the Cavs came to life in the second half. Thompson was playing out of his mind in the fourth quarter with 14 points and seven rebounds. When Drummond got in foul trouble, Thompson's intensity picked up even more.

At that point, he couldn't be stopped. He had three dunks and a layup in the fourth. I don't know if I've ever seen him play as well, especially against a very good frontcourt.

He's been very good the last two nights with Anderson Varejao sidelined with a back injury. Thompson averaged 20.5 points and 14 rebounds in the last two games.

He ended with a season-high 25 points and 15 rebounds against the Pistons.

The Cavs trailed in all but the last 2:06 of the game. The Pistons had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Cavs forward Anthony Bennett, coming off his first career double-double against Sacramento on Tuesday, was held to two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

Such is the life of a rookie. He shouldn't let that get him down, though. He's been playing his best basketball of the season in the last week. This kid is going to be a player.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Philadelphia at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Josh Smith (6-8, 225)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Greg Monroe (6-11, 250)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Andre Drummond (6-11, 279)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Kyle Singler (6-8, 225)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Brandon Jennings (6-1, 169)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Carrick Felix
Pistons - C Josh Harrellson, F Tony Mitchell, G Peyton Siva
Joe Crawford, Eric Lewis, Josh Tiven

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Game 52: Kings at Cavs

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavs players said no one even brought up the Kings' 124-80 loss on Jan. 12.

Of course, there was no need. The Cavs jumped all over the Kings right from the start. Coach Mike Brown didn't need to motivate the players and use that devastating 44-point loss.

The Cavs have now won three in a row. The focus now has to be on the Pistons, who are just 12-15 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

They could have a four-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break. Of course, they'll have to do it without starting center Anderson Varejao, who is out with a sore back. By missing these two games, Varejao will have a week off before the Cavs' next game.

It makes sense for the long haul. If they are going to do any damage this season, they'll need him manning the middle.

Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Zeller and Henry Sims played well in the paint for the Cavs. They didn't miss Varejao against the Kings. They might against the Pistons.

Detroit's two starting bigs, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, will do some damage around the basket. 

But Bennett can pose some problems for the Pistons with the way he can stretch the defense with his shooting. He can shoot the 3, as well as the mid-range jumper. I love how he's playing right now. He had his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Sims fouled out against the Kings, but ended with seven points and five rebounds. He's a tough kid. He dishes out hard fouls around the basket. He's not dirty by any means, just rugged. I want to see more minutes from Sims. He's too good to hold down any longer.

Zeller had six points and four rebounds. At times, he was manhandled inside.

Thompson was very good with 16 points and 13 rebounds. This foursome will have to show up on Wednesday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The Cavs haven't lost a game since they made the move from the fired Chris Grant to the promotion of David Griffin as the acting general manager. Is it a coincidence? I don't know.

I have to say I was a bit shocked when Kings coach Mike Malone mentioned after the game that he's sure "Grant is smiling at home" with the success of Bennett.

Wow. Nice zinger.

It would be something if Bennett takes off. Grant can't be rehired now.

Cousins was left off the Western Conference All-Star team, but it wasn't because of his talent level. The 6-11, 270-pounder is averaging 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.23 blocks. He is quite a handful.

He had 21 points, but no field goals in the second half. He had 10 free throws.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

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 Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 270)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Isaiah Thomas (5-9, 185)
Cavs - G/F Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Kings - N/A
Zach Zarba, Curtis Blair, Courtney Kirkland

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Game 51: Grizzlies at Cavs

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Cavaliers are 2-0 in the David Griffin era. He said before the game he wants the Cavs to smile more.

There were plenty of smiles after the game from the players, coaches, staff, fans and even the grizzled media.

Let's face it, it's way more fun to cover a winning team than the stuff we've been watching for most of the season.

They looked like a real defensive team tonight, as they limited the Grizzlies to 38.4 percent shooting. Why is that significant? The previous five teams have shot better than 50 percent from the field against the Cavs.

Remember, they want to hang their hat on the defensive end. They've talked about doing it all season. They just haven't gotten it done on the court.

Part of that defensive intensity came from center Anderson Varejao. The media waited for what seemed like forever after the game for him to emerge from the trainer's room. He never showed.

He was limping late in the game. He attacked Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph on Sunday. Randolph had 14 points and eight rebounds. He shot just 6 of 16 from the field.

That shifted 6-9 Tristan Thompson on the 7-1 Marc Gasol, and the Grizzlies center never got going. He had just eight points, nine rebounds and four blocks. He was 3 of 11 from the field. Tyler Zeller also guarded him for part of the night.

I have been a bit tough on Zeller as of late, but he really played aggressively against Memphis with five points and eight rebounds. They need him to play with aggression.

Kyrie Irving was the only starter in double figures with 28 points. Luol Deng was next with nine points. He just doesn't look right to me. I suspect his Achilles' tendon is really bothering him. He doesn't look as athletic as he used to with Chicago.

I don't know how long Coach Mike Brown will stick with Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup. He had two points tonight - he's averaging 1.0 point in his last two games. But coaches are creatures of habit. If they are on a winning streak, they rarely make any changes. So, we might see Jack for another game, at least.

The Grizzlies were playing without their starting backcourt of Tony Allen (sprained left wrist) and Mike Conley (sprained right ankle). That made a big difference for Memphis, even though rookie Nick Calathes played very well with 17 points and six assists.

The Grizzlies have hung in the Western Conference playoff race. They are currently the ninth seed in the West.

The Cavs are 14-3 lifetime against the Grizzlies at The Q, including an 8-1 mark in the last nine home games. 

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

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Tayshaun Prince (6-9, 215)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Zach Randolph (6-9, 260)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Marc Gasol (7-1, 265)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Courtney Lee (6-5, 200)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Nick Calathes (6-6, 213)
Cavs - G/F Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Grizzlies - G Mike Conley, F Quincy Pondexter
Danny Crawford, John Goble, Ben Taylor

Friday, February 7, 2014

Game 50: Cavs at Wizards

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

WHAT HAPPENED?: Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, who fired General Manager Chris Grant on Thursday, said he believes in the players and that they have the wherewithal to get the job done. Perhaps they responded to those positive statements tonight.

This was the first game of the David Griffin era as acting general manager. Hopefully, it will have some bearing on what the Cavs do on the court. 

They snapped their six-game losing streak on Friday with a spirited win over what will be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Many thought the Cavs would do what the Wizards have done this season. They came into Friday's game a .500 club: 12-12 at home and 12-12 on the road.

They obviously have talent, especially offensively. All five starters average in double figures, led by All-Star point guard John Wall. He had a monster game on Friday with 32 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a block. Wow.

That man can play.

Their backcourt is their strength with Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal.

Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving missed shootaround when he was a little under the weather. He ended up playing 33 minutes against the Wizards. He had 23 points and a game-high 12 assists. He was very good, especially at the foul line where he was 13 of 13.

Dion Waiters came off the bench for a team-high 24 points and four rebounds. He kept them in the game for a stretch.

C.J. Miles started at small forward in place of Luol Deng, who was also sick. Deng hasn't been very good as of late, especially in the Lakers' loss when he made 1 of 10 from the field. 

Speaking of not being very good, veteran guard Jarrett Jack did absolutely nothing in 12 minutes. Wait a minute. He missed two free throws in the waning seconds that could have cost the Cavs the win.

It's time to put Miles back in the starting lineup.

The Cavs have won their last four games in Washington. They are now 6-20 on the road this season. 

Three other players deserve a shout-out. Center Tyler Zeller, who played a total of nine minutes in the previous two games, was very active off the bench. He finished with eight points and five rebounds. 

Also, little-used Alonzo Gee was pushed into action with Deng out of the lineup. Gee had 11 points and seven rebounds. He also had one of the sweetest follow dunks of the season.

Rookie forward Anthony Bennett, playing his best basketball of his short NBA career, had eight points and six rebounds.

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

SF C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Trevor Ariza (6-8, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Nene (6-11, 250)
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Marcin Gortat (6-11, 240)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Bradley Beal (6-5, 207)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. John Wall (6-4, 207)
Cavs - G/F Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix
Wizards - F Al Harrington, G/F Glen Rice
Monty McCutchen, Eric Dalen, Kevin Scott