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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Game 49: Cavs at Timberwolves

Target Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. This one was all about Kevin Love. He spent the first six years of his career with the Timberwolves before being traded to the Cavs on Aug. 23. It was a bit of a controversial trade. The Cavs sacrificed No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins. He's going to be a star in this league. There is no question. The Cavs were trading for a player that was already at that level in Love. LeBron James wanted him. GM David Griffin went out and got him.

2. What has transpired is a bit of a conundrum. We watch highlights of a young stallion in Minnesota making jumpers and athletic plays. Wiggins had a career-high 33 points on Saturday, but just two in the fourth quarter. He's playing for the worst team in the league. He also has a green light to jack it up. He's averaging 15.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. He's shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from the 3-point line. Some Cavs fans regret trading him and want him back.

3. Love has been good, but far from great. He's averaging 17.2 points and 10.3 rebounds. His shooting has been off all season, however. He's shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from the 3-point line. Love was very good on Saturday with 14 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. He's shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc. He handled it well going back to Minny.

4. The Wolves produced a video entitled, "The Return," regarding Love's return to his old stomping ground. In it, they mock Love a bit by not showing him in the video. Love got a kick out of it. He knew what was coming tonight. A lot of boos.

5. The Cavs have won seven of the last 10 meetings with the Wolves at the Target Center. They've also won seven in a row against Western Conference opponents.

6. The Cavs won their 10th game in a row. They wouldn't have done it without LeBron James, who had a game-high 36 points, 16 in the pivotal fourth quarter. The Cavs' defense kicked in in the fourth quarter. They outscored the Wolves, 30-11, in the fourth and held them to 17 percent shooting from the floor. They haven't lost since losing to Phoenix on Jan. 13 - more than two weeks. It's the longest streak since they won 13 in a row from Jan. 16-Feb. 11, 2011. 

7. The last time the Cavs faced the Wolves - on Dec. 23 - center Anderson Varejao tore his Achilles' tendon and was lost for the year. Love's thumb was sprained in that game, but he didn't miss time because of it. The Cavs hope they can stay healthy for a stretch of games because they are just plowing through their schedule.

8. The Cavs had made a least 11 3-pointers in four of their previous five games. Over that stretch, they are shooting 39.8 percent from behind the arc (66 of 166). They have become a 3-point shooting team. They made just 4 of 14 on Saturday and never got into any kind of flow from behind the arc.

9. J.R. Smith is entrenched at shooting guard. It would be a mistake to move him out of there. He has scored in double figures in nine of his previous 12 starts with the Cavs. He was held to just three points against the Wolves.

10. The Cavs finished off four games in five nights - and won them all. That was a tough stretch, especially on the road.

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

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Kevin Martin (6-7, 204)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Thaddeus Young (6-8, 221)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Nikola Pekovic (6-11, 295)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Andrew Wiggins (6-8, 199)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 189)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Timberwolves - F Shabazz Muhammad, F Robbie Hummel
Jason Phillips, Curtis Blair, Josh Tiven

Friday, January 30, 2015


Game 48: Kings at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. It's not a sexy thing to write about. Sometimes, it's not even very interesting. But the difference in the current Cavaliers and the one that got their butts kicked in Sacramento Jan. 11 is defense. This team has bought into Coach David Blatt's system, and it's impressive to see. They keep getting better on the defensive end. They held the Kings to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor. That's a season low for a Cavs' opponent. They also held the Kings to 16.7 percent from the 3-point line. They are getting after it on that end.

2. That stout defense has fueled the Cavs' nine-game winning streak. It's their longest streak since they won 13 in a row from Jan. 16-Feb. 11, 2011. They are averaging 109.9 points during this streak. They also have an impressive +12.6-point differential.

3. Before I forget, why exactly did the Kings owner fire Mike Malone as coach? That move has backfired in his face, don't you think? Take nothing away from Tyrone Corbin, but Malone was doing a good job with the Kings. I just don't understand the move to fire him. In fact, it was a ridiculous move. Unless something was going on behind the scenes I don't know about, I can't condone it. 

4. The fact that LeBron James played tonight was a curious one. He went from being doubtful right up to game time to playing. I think it was a bit fishy. I'm glad he played, and so were the 20,562 in attendance. He was restricted to 32 minutes against the Kings. Coach David Blatt said he missed that by 1 minute, as James played 33. His shot looked a bit off, which is normal for a player with a sprained right wrist. 

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

6. The Kings have three former Cavs players on their roster in Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi and Ryan Hollins, not to mention Corbin. Casspi finished with 15 points and three rebounds. At times, he looked pretty good.

6. Cavs center Timofey Mozgov needed to show up tonight and at least make Cousins work. He did. Cousins still ended with 21 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and a block. He shot just 5 of 17 from the field.

7. Kings point guard Darren Collison has scored in double figures in 20 consecutive games, in addition to 25 of their last 27. He's a very underrated player.

8. The Cavs have won nine games in a row. They've also won their last six games against Western Conference teams. They are 7-2 in their last nine games at The Q vs. Sacramento.

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

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Rudy Gay (6-8, 230)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Jason Thompson (6-11, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 270)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Ben McLemore (6-5, 195)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Darren Collison (6-0, 175)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Kings - F Eric Moreland, F Reggie Evans
John Goble, Matt Boland, Steven Anderson

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Game 47: Trail Blazers at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Game 46: Cavs at Pistons

The Palace of Auburn Hills
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: NBA TV, Fox Sports Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Game 45: Thunder at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Game 44: Hornets at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6-7, 232)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Cody Zeller (7-0, 240)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Bismack Biyombo (6-9, 245)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Gerald Henderson (6-5, 215)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Kemba Walker (6-1, 184)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao
Hornets - G Jannero Pargo, F Noah Vonleh
Bill Kennedy, Tony Brown, J.T. Orr

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game 43: Jazz at Cavs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Game 42: Bulls at Cavs

Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7

1. TNT's audience certainly got an eye full of how good the Cavs can be. If they continue to defend like this, they will be in the NBA Finals in June. Yes, those are bold words, but that's how well they played. 

2. This was the official start of the second half of the season. The first half was a blur. Lots of drama ... and injuries. At the beginning of the season, prognosticators thought these would be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. That hasn't been the case. The Central Division-leading Bulls have the fourth-best record in the East and the Cavs are sixth. But there's still plenty of time to catch up. The Cavs are 4 1/2 games behind Chicago with 40 games to play. Coach David Blatt predicts there will be some movement in the teams ahead of the Cavs. He was referring to his own team, and its prospects of moving up.

3. The Cavs are now 2-0 vs. Chicago this season. That might come into play later in the season once tie-breakers are relevant. The Cavs slipped past Chicago, 114-198, in overtime on Oct. 31. The Cavs trailed by five points with 47 seconds left in regulation and somehow got it to overtime. LeBron James scored eight points in OT to pull out the victory at the United Center.

4. The Bulls missed center Joakim Noah's intensity tonight. Pau Gasol shifted to center, but was no match for Cavs big man Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov was a beast with 15 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Gasol had 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. His numbers were good, with the exception of his 4 of 14 shooting. Mozgov seems to be rounding into form with the Cavs. He's averaging 9.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.0 block since coming to the team. He's shooting 53.5 percent from the field in that span.

5. The Cavs had three players with double-doubles: Mozgov, point guard Kyrie Irving (18 points, matched his career high with 12 assists) and power forward Kevin Love (16 points, 12 rebounds). Love has been bothered by back spasms, but looked like he moved around pretty good last night.

6. Swingman Jimmy Butler is the Bulls' leading scorer at 20.6 points per game. He is the leading candidate for the Most Improved Player. Suddenly, he's a stud. He's always been a strong defender - he guarded LeBron James - but now he's a big-time scorer as well. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. He was 6 of 16 from the field with James guarding him.

7. Cavs forward/center Tristan Thompson is on a roll. He pulled down 10 rebounds off the bench. Coach David Blatt has shortened his bench to eight players, even though he played everyone last night. The Cavs led by 25 points at one point in the second half before the Bulls made it a game in the late going.

8. The Bulls' vaunted defense has sprung a leak. They have allowed 100 or more points in five consecutive games, including 121 to Orlando. They are allowing 103.1 points and a league-worst 49.6 percent shooting in their last eight games. They've lost six of the last eight contests.

9. When scoring 100 or more points this season, the Cavs are 10-0 at home, 17-4 overall. The century mark is a magical number for them.

10. This was the fourth time this season the Cavs have had three players grab 10 or more rebounds (Mozgov, Love, Thompson). They also tied their season high with 20 offensive rebounds. They also pulled down 35 rebounds at halftime, a season high. They've averaged 53 rebounds in two games vs. Chicago this year. 

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

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Jimmy Butler (6-7, 220)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Taj Gibson (6-9, 225)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Pau Gasol (7-0, 255)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Kirk Hinrich (6-4, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Derrick Rose (6-3, 190)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Bulls - C Joakim Noah, G/F Mike Dunleavy
Jason Phillips, Brent Barnaky, Sean Wright

Friday, January 16, 2015

Game 41: Cavs at Clippers

Staples Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Ohio

1. This might be the Cavs' signature win of the season. If LeBron James is right, they can beat any team in the league. They proved that tonight.

2. They won back-to-back games at the Staples Center against the Lakers and Clippers, respectively. They finished the West Coast trip with a 2-3 record. James played in the last three games. They probably should have won them all. They now return to Cleveland for a four-game homestand.

3. They shot an impressive 55 percent from the field against a very good Clippers team. That included 44 percent from the 3-point line. They attempted 23 3s, which is more in line for what Coach David Blatt is looking. Kyrie Irving, who led all scorers with 37 points, was 5 of 7 from behind the arc. It was a dazzling shooting display in front of a national-television audience.

4. Power forward Kevin Love missed his second game this season with back spasms. He was bothered against the Lakers on Thursday, yet drew a late charging foul against Jeremy Lin. It was a big play in that game. He was not able to go tonight. What's impressive is the Cavs still outrebounded the rugged Clippers, 44-43. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan leads the league in rebounding at 13.6 per game. Power forward Blake Griffin is also a load on the boards.

5. James ended with 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He added three steals and a whopping nine turnovers. The Cavs had 20 as a team, which led to 33 points by the Clippers.

6. I was wondering what the Cavs had up their sleeves regarding Griffin, who ended with 34 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. They started with Tristan Thompson on Griffin, and then switched James on him in the late going. He's got the size advantage on James, and can obviously jump out of the gym.

7. Thompson was impressive with a season-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. He was very active all night around the basket.

8. The Cavs tried to get back in the game in the third quarter with a Hack-a-DeAndre strategy. Jordan was 5 of 12 from the foul line in the third - and the game - so I guessed it worked. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

9. Sources say the Cavs might have interest in point guard Jordan Farmar, who was waived by the Clippers. They need some insurance at backup point guard. There might be some concerns about Matthew Dellavedova getting it done in the postseason.

10. The Cavs' bench was outscored, 22-13.

UP NEXT: vs. Chicago, Quicken Loans Arena, 7:30 p.m. Monday

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Matt Barnes (6-7, 225)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Blake Griffin (6-10, 251)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. DeAndre Jordan (6-11, 265)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. J.J. Redick (6-4, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Chris Paul (6-0, 175)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Clippers - F Chris Wilcox
Tony Brothers, Brian Forte, Leon Wood

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Game 40: Cavs at Lakers

Staples Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: TNT, Fox Sports Ohio

1. This was an important win for so many reasons. The Cavs had almost forgotten how to win games. They hadn't won a game in 13 days - since Jan. 2 in Charlotte. They snapped a six-game losing streak. 

2. This was needed to quiet all the noise about Coach David Blatt's job. A loss to the 12-28 Lakers could have contributed to his demise. He still could be on thin ice. Here's how I think it will play out: He'll be given the chance to get all his players back, play for a couple weeks and see how they gel on the court. If by some chance they flop, then we could see a change. But with all their players available, I think they'll make a little run and get things together. 

3. The most important player back on the court, of course, is No. 23. LeBron James was fantastic again for the Cavs with 36 points, five rebounds and five assists. In two games back from his two-week layoff, he's averaging 34.5 points. If you haven't noticed, he's pretty good. He didn't even push his coach last night.

4. Something to keep your eye on is power forward Kevin Love's back spasms. He sat out part of the third quarter with the malady. He did return and play in the fourth, something he never got a chance to do in the previous game in Phoenix. Blatt had just put his foot in his mouth, saying Love "isn't a max player, yet." He was trying to say that Love didn't have a max contract yet from the Cavs. But it got twisted by the media to wonder if Love was a max player. He tried to soothe over his faux pas the next day. Then, he didn't play Love in the fourth quarter against the Suns. There's some weird stuff going on here. Love ended with 17 points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes.

5. The Cavs are hoping the euphoria of beating the Lakers will help them against the Clippers on Friday. It probably won't. I can see visions of Blake Griffin taking lob after lob from Chris Paul for dunk after dunk in that game. The Love vs. Griffin matchup frightens me. 

6. Lakers coach Byron Scott, who spent three seasons with the Cavs, really wanted to stick it to his former team tonight. He became coach in Cleveland in the summer of 2010 before anyone knew James was going to Miami. Scott's three-year tenure was one of the worst years in franchise history. But I have to tell you, it was great to get to know the guy. I like him a lot.

7. Coming into the contest, the center matchup looked to be troubling for the Cavs. Lakers center Jordan Hill was so much quicker than newcomer Timofey Mozgov. Hill totally outplayed the big Russian,but it wasn't because of his athletic gifts. He was deadly with his jump shot. He outscored Mozgov, 20-4, even though the Cavs big man outrebounded him, 10-6.

9. Former Cavs power forward Carlos Boozer helped the Lakers bench outscore its Cleveland counterpart, 39-16. Incidentally, I like the minutes Shawn Marion is giving the Cavs off the bench. He had five points and defended Kobe Bryant for part of the game. Tristan Thompson was a beast on the boards with a game-high 11 rebounds.

10. Bryant dished out a career-high 16 assists. The Cavs had just 14 as a team.

UP NEXT: at Los Angeles Clippers, Staples Center, 10:30 p.m. Friday

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Wesley Johnson (6-7, 215)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Ed Davis (6-10, 240)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Jordan Hill (6-10, 245)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Kobe Bryant (6-6, 212)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Ronnie Price (6-2, 180)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Lakers - G Steve Nash, F Julius Randle
Ken Mauer, Mark Ayotte, Kevin Cutler

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Game 39: Cavs at Suns

U.S. Airways Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. Yes, the Cavs fell below .500 on the season at 19-20. And, yes, they dropped to 0-3 on the West Coast trip. Unless they win their next game - at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday - they might go 0-5 on this trip. That wouldn't be a good thing.

2. But there was some encouragement after this game. They fought, scrapped and hustled. J.R. Smith lit a fire under the Cavs by making five 3-pointers in the third quarter. He was 8 of 14 from behind the arc in the game en route to his season-high 29 points. In three games with the Cavs, he's scored 27, four and 29. Notice a pattern here?

3. Cavs forward LeBron James played for the first time Dec. 28 game against Detroit. He'd missed the previous eight games with a strained lower back and left knee. It's obvious that he's needed in the lineup. The team had completely fallen apart without him, as their 1-7 mark indicated. On the season, the Cavs were 1-8 without him. However, he made a big difference tonight with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He reverse dunk in the first half was a thing of beauty.

4. Many wondered how much energy he was going to have after attending Ohio State's national championship victory over Oregon in Arlington, Texas, on Monday. But he came out with intensity and was outstanding. He played almost 37 minutes. He'll be sore on Wednesday morning, as he took about five good shots to the face or the head in the game. he was knocked down two or three times, as well. The Suns sicked P.J. Tucker on James and he played him very aggressively.

5. The Cavs might have won if they had gotten a normal game out of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. He made just 4 of 14 shots en route to nine points and six assists. He turned the ball over eight times. In all, the Cavs had 19 turnovers, which led to 27 points for the Suns.

6. Many in the media will make a big deal with the fact that Cavs power forward Kevin Love didn't play in the fourth quarter. He ended with nine points and nine rebounds. Coach David Blatt had better find a way to better utilize Love, which can walk at the end of the season in free agency. He told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that he didn't plan to opt out this summer. We'll have to see what happens.

7. The Cavs unveiled their starting frontcourt of James, Love and 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov. I have to say it was less than impressive. Mozgov finished with two points and six rebounds. He didn't make a field goal and seemed to be in foul trouble all night.

8. The Suns are starting a franchise-long eight-game homestand. They snapped a two-game losing streak (to NBA powers Memphis and San Antonio). However, in their last 15 games, they are averaging 111 points. They have some serious firepower.

9. Suns center Alex Len is a legitimate shot blocker. He is averaging 2.7 blocks in his last 16 games. The Cavs considered drafting him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He's so long. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block.

10. The Suns have two sets of brothers on the team - twin forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris and guards Zoran and Goran Dragic. 

11. Cavs forward Shawn Marion (strained left hip) played for the first time in three games. He was pretty good, too, with a season-high 11 rebounds. He spent the first nine years of his career in the Valley of the Sun. He's a key role player on this team as a backup at small forward and power forward.

UP NEXT: at Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center, 10:30 p.m. Thursday

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. P.J. Tucker (6-6, 260)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Markieff Morris (6-10, 245)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Alex Len (7-1, 260)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Goran Dragic (6-3, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Eric Bledsoe (6-1, 190)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Iman Shumpert
Suns - G Zoran Dragic, G Tyler Ennis
Scott Foster, Karl Lane, Eric Lewis