Cavaliers falter for first time in embarrassing loss to Orlando

By Brendan DeVenney

Learning curve? Yeah, you can say that. Everyone knew it was going to take time for Cleveland to start to jell as a team with so many superstars on this roster. That’s why it makes it okay that the Cavaliers got their butts kicked by a sub-average Orlando team on Saturday night, 114-93.

Orlando jumped out to a 25-8 lead in the first quarter thanks to five three-pointers, and finished the quarter leading leading 36-18 at Quicken Loans Arena with eight three-pointers in the first quarter.

They kept on stretching their lead in the second quarter with the three ball, but Cleveland got on a run at times during the night, too. Kevin Love with a hook shot cut the lead to 15 in the second, 45-30. Love continued to impress in the half cutting the lead to 11 with under two minutes to play, 54-43.

At halftime, Orlando was up 56-45.

Highlighted by a 31-foot triple by D.J. Augustin, the third quarter looked a lot like the first, with the Magic continually shoving the ball down the Cavaliers throat. Despite Cleveland cutting the lead to seven with a Dwayne Wade three, Orlando used the three as their amo to increase their lead back to double digits. An Evan Fournier three-pointer to make it 70-58 started the onslaught back up for the Magic in the third, outscoring Cleveland 32-20.

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At one point in the ballgame, it was 106-69 Magic, a 37-point lead for the 53-loss team from last year. Luckily, James and the Cavaliers were able to outscore Orlando 28-26 in the fourth to make the loss seem not as bad. But still, this should be a learning experience for this new look Cleveland squad.

Orlando used the three ball, 17 triples to be exact, and that was the only way they were going to stand a chance against the Cavaliers, and they answered. The Magic were led by 23 points from Nikola Vučević, who shot 11 for 16 from the field in 28 minutes played, only hitting one three. Jonathan Simmons went 3 for 5 from behind the arc, putting up 19 points in 20 minutes. Evan Fournier also went 3 for 5 from behind the arc, adding 13 points total for the Magic. D.J. Augustin went 3 for 4 in three’s, putting up 12 points. Mario Hezonja went perfect in three-pointers with 3, adding 11 points. And four other Magic hit three’s to bring the total to 17 three-pointers on the night for Orlando.

Side note: The Magic used ’17’ three’s to end a ’17’ game losing streak to the Cavaliers.

The Magic are a team with promise, and already at 2-1 on the season, they have the ability to surprise some people this year. They may be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot come April.

As far as Cleveland goes, they were led in scoring by, you guessed it, LeBron James, who put up 22 points on 8 for 15 shooting, went 1 for 3 from long distance, and 5 for 6 at the stripe. But surprisingly, the Cavaliers second leading scorer was Iman Shumpert, who tallied 21 points on 5 for 14 shooting, 4 for 5 from three-point land, and went a crazy 7 for 10 from the free throw line. Kevin Love was the only other Cav who hit double digits with 19 points on 8 for 17 shooting. But, let’s look at the negatives.

On Friday night at Milwaukee, Derrick Rose sprained his left ankle after a foul from the Bucks’ Gregg Monroe, a hit that was later upgraded to a flagrant 1 foul on Sunday. Rose, thus, sat out Saturday’s game, and José Calderón filled in at starting point guard. Calderón finished with just 2 points. That was it, on 1 for 3 shooting.

Dwayne Wade, starting at shooting guard but supposedly still trying to figure out his role, finished with just 5 points. He has yet to hit double digits in the regular season in a Cavaliers uniform. And starting forward Jae Crowder did not get in the scoring column.

With those guys and the eight guys that came off the bench, Cleveland shot just 38% from the field, compared to 44% shooting from Orlando. But I wouldn’t worry. It’s just game three of eighty-two.

Next up: Cleveland vs. Chicago, Tuesday, October 24, 7:00 at Quicken Loans Arena

 

Korver, James help Cavaliers defeat Bucks

By Brendan DeVenney

It started as a major test and challenge once again for the Cavaliers in their first road game of the season. Traveling up to Milwaukee, Cleveland was given a major test with the promising Bucks in their second game of the season.

Coming off a heart pounding, thrilling win over Boston in their season opener on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers were in for another challenge with Milwaukee. But Cleveland decided to show up late in the game and roll to what in the end looked like an easy road victory.

Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brodgdon, Milwaukee jumped out fast and started to challenge the Cavaliers in the first quarter. Brogdon hit a big three to give his team a 10-6 lead, and then Tony Snell hit a big three to give the Bucks a 16-12 lead with seven minutes left.

But Cleveland wouldn’t be fazed, with J.R. Smith and Dwayne Wade making clutch shots to force a tie game at the end of the first quarter, 25-25.

Then the Cavaliers really started to play their game with conviction. The second quarter saw Cleveland outscore the Bucks 30-24, where Kyle Korver got hot with back-to-back three-pointers, a huge alley-oop from Kevin Love to LeBron James, and Jeff Green have an impressive six points in the quarter. The Cavaliers led 55-49 at halftime.

The third quarter then was really when the Cavaliers started to pull away. With Milwaukee still lingering around, 71-68, the “Korver Kounter” was activated as Kyle hit three huge three’s to start the rout of Milwaukee. James added a huge dunk to the momentum swing, and Smith tipped one in at the buzzer to make it a 13-point lead for Cleveland heading to the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was a cake walk for the Cavaliers. James shined once again, proving that he can be a clutch, fourth quarter player. He let a streaking Antetokounmpo go right past him, just so he could rise and block him off the glass for his only block of the night. James would then go on to finish with eight fourth quarter points highlighted by two huge three-pointers. Cleveland outscored the Bucks, 30-24, in the fourth and proceeded to knock off Milwaukee to move to 2-0, 116-97.

Six Cavaliers jumped into double digits for Tyronn Lue. LeBron James once again led the way with 24 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds on 10 for 16 shooting. Another huge night for the 15-year veteran. But the story of the night was Kyle Korver, coming off the bench and lighting it up from behind the arc. After playing just seven minutes against Boston and not scoring, he tallied up 19 minutes of hot offense. He went 6 for 8, 5 for 6 from behind the arc, putting up 17 points to lead the bench players.

Kevin Love also accounted for 17 points, going 5 for 12 from the field and a perfect 7 for 7 from the charity stripe. New Cavalier Jae Crowder, who was playing not too far away from his alma mater Marquette, had an impressive 14 points in 25 minutes. Derrick Rose tallied up 12 points for Cleveland, and Jeff Green finished with 10 points.

Dwayne Wade, who also went to Marquette, had a disappointing night finishing with just 4 points and going 2 for 7 from the field.

For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is going to be in the MVP conversation all year long, led the game with an outstanding 34 points, going 15 for 22 from the field and 4 for 6 from the free throw line. Malcolm Brogdon was the only other Buck to hit double digits with 16 points, knocking down 4 three-pointers.

Next up: Cleveland vs. Orlando, Saturday, October 21, 8:00 at Quicken Loans Arena

LeBron Beats Kyrie in Season Opener

By Brendan DeVenney

Father always knows best? Never mess with the elder lion? Whatever metaphor you want to use, LeBron James proved to Kyrie Irving that as long as I’m here, there is no taking me down while I’m the leader of the East.

Cleveland opened the new season with a classic back and forth battle with the Celtics at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night, and it featured an amazing fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, neither the Cavaliers nor the Celtics had a lead larger than three points in the entire final quarter. After being outscored in the third quarter 33-18 by Boston and up only one point, the Cavaliers slowed the pace down and played their style of basketball, with Kevin Love and LeBron James going right at Kyrie Irving and keeping the Cavaliers in the ballgame.

But the ultimate moment of the ballgame came in the final two minutes. With 1:20 to play, LeBron James drove with a spin move on Jaylen Brown to give the Cavaliers a 99-98 lead.

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Then after a big defensive stop by Cleveland, LeBron in the paint kicked it out to Kevin Love in his comfortable corner, and calmly knocked down the eventual game-winning three with 46 seconds left to make it a 102-98 lead.

Kyrie Irving had a chance to force overtime with a three ball with seconds ticking away, but air balled it with James right in his face, and the Cavaliers prevailed in the league’s season opener in Cleveland, 102-99 over Boston.

The game had everything you wanted. Dominance by LeBron made the night for the Cavaliers, putting up 29 points with 16 rebounds and 9 assists, nearly scoring a triple-double on opening night. In 41 minutes, it felt as if James was wanting to prove everyone wrong, especially Kyrie.

Speaking of Irving, he did not disappoint his new teammates and coach putting up 22 points with 10 assists and 3 steals. For Cleveland fans, it was watching vintage Kyrie just wearing a different color and trying to defend his old teammates. He hit some clutch shots throughout the night, specifically in the third quarter where Boston rallied back into the game. The third quarter was also highlighted by a huge night from Marcus Smart, putting up all of his 12 points off the bench in the third to bring the Celtics within one point at the end of the quarter.

Throughout the crazy night, no one could turn away from the fact that Boston lost their newest superstar five minutes into the ballgame, where Gordon Hayward, who was going up for an alley-oop from Irving, came down and landed on his left leg, fracturing his left ankle, and it was a horrible, gruesome injury that changed the mood of the entire night. What was supposed to be an intense season opener with LeBron facing off with Irving, and there being a lot of drama and emotions played out on the court, the mood of the night turned to playing with emotions about the game being bigger than basketball.

As far as the new guys for Cleveland, Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade did not play all that bad. Rose finished with a huge performance of 14 points and 4 rebounds, while Wade finished with 8 points and 3 assists. J.R. Smith, coming off the bench in a new role, hit just one three and finished with 10 points.

It’s just one game for the Cavaliers, but there’s already a number of things that Cleveland can start working on, as far as rotations go and who plays better with who.

Next up: Cleveland @ Milwaukee, Friday, October 20, 7:00 at BMO Harris Bradley Center

2017-2018 Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

By Brendan DeVenney

It will go down as one of the most drama filled, anxious, and exciting off seasons in Cleveland Cavaliers history. So many transactions, moving parts, and additions to this team made for a very interesting offseason, and in the end, made for a highly anticipated 2017-2018 Cavaliers season with a brand new team.

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First off, we start with the firing of ex-General Manager David Griffin after the Cavaliers lost their second NBA Finals with Griffin. Despite leading Cleveland to their first title in franchise history, owner Dan Gilbert did not think what Griffin was looking to do was enough to hang with the league’s top team in Golden State. Thus, with no general manager, for the longest time there was no one running basketball operations. Over a month, reports were that owner Dan Gilbert was running basketball operations, although there was speculation that assistant GM Koby Altman was making moves, and that became true in late July when he was named the new general manager.

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Moving parts started in July when the Cavaliers signed veteran José Calderón to a 1-year deal, acquiring him from the Atlanta Hawks. This is Calderón’s seventh NBA team in 12 years, which that statement right there should tell you he’s not a player you build a team around. He’s a veteran, so he brings a leadership mentality to this year’s team, and will give you solid minutes in garbage time. The very next day, the Cavaliers added Jeff Green, who is playing in his prime right now out of Georgetown. Green can not only fly, but he can shoot the ball very well, too. Green is a player who, having played with playoff teams in Oklahoma City, Boston, Memphis, and Los Angeles, adds an extra utility man to play with LeBron, J.R., and Kevin.

The Cavaliers then signed forward Cedi Osman from Minnesota. Osman will be on Cleveland’s roster at the beginning of the season, and has played most of his career in Turkey, both on Anadolu Efes S.K. in the EuroLeague, and on both the Turkish Junior and Senior National Teams. Don’t expect to see much of this guy. He’s a quality piece to have only when the Cavaliers have run away with a win in the second half.

But then the biggest news of the offseason came on July 21, when ESPN’s phenomenal NBA beat reporter Brian Windhorst reported that Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers number one draft pick out of Duke in 2011, wanted out of Cleveland and to have his own team where he is the face of the franchise, not one of many. This triggered a Twitter storm around the NBA, and created havoc in Cavaliers’ front office, because at this time there was no GM yet. But, it was funny how just three days later, Altman took the reigns.

This also created a lot of drama in the Cavaliers locker room. Not necessarily in between games since it was the summer, but it caused a stir of discussion whether or not the relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was broken and torn, and if it ever was mutual in the first place.

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None of that mattered as on August 22, the Cavaliers traded Irving to their Eastern Conference rival Boston Celtics, and they got in return a load of talent. Point guard Isaiah Thomas joined Cleveland, along with forwards Jae Crowder and Ante Žižić. The trade was made official on August 30, where Cleveland then received future draft picks from Brooklyn and Miami. So, if it’s one team that lucked out of this trade, it’s Cleveland. You can argue that Boston got a superstar to lead their team and make them more dangerous to beat the Cavaliers, but adding Thomas and Crowder only made Cleveland a better defensive team and a deeper team to beat the rising Celtics.

Thomas has been injury prone recently with an aggravated right femoral-acetabular impingement. He recently tore it again in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland and has been cautious with doctors of playing on it. Thomas won’t start the season playing, but could be back as early as Christmas, if not before the All-Star Break, making sure his hip is a full go.

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Thomas has been one to have break out games, really making a name for himself playing with Boston. In his debut with Boston, he had a 21-point performance, off the bench! In that first season with the Celtics, he did injure his back, but then came back and had a season high 38-point performance against Detroit. Just last season Isaiah averaged over 25 points per game, and shot 46%. He also had his best playoffs in his career, averaging 23 points in the first round, Eastern Conference Semifinals, and Eastern Conference Finals. He had both a 33 and 53-point performance in the Semifinals against Washington, which ended up being a career defining moment for Thomas.

However, we’ll likely not see him make his Cavaliers debut until late this season. Until then, we’ll see two other new Clevelanders make their debut in the Wine & Gold alongside LeBron. After the Irving trade, Altman and his crew knew they would have to reload losing their All-Star point guard. So, on July 25, the Cavaliers added former league MVP Derrick Rose. That deal was already in the talks way before Irving dropped his bombshell. Then after James’ best friend agreed to a buyout with Chicago on September 24, Dwayne Wade would reunite with his former teammate in Cleveland. That’s adding 37 combined years of NBA experience between James, Rose, and Wade. You can not go wrong with that much experience and leadership on a team.

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Now there are some flaws here though between the two vets in Rose and Wade. First of all, Rose has been plagued by injuries in his career. After winning the MVP in 2011, Rose suffered an ACL injury the following season in the 2012 playoffs. After missing the 2012-13 season, Rose tore his right meniscus. After sitting out the rest of that year, he returned in 2015, only to tear it again. After that, he was traded to the Knicks. But in April of his only season with New York, he tore his left meniscus and is currently trying to rebound from that injury.

Through all of these injuries sidelining the youngest MVP ever, Rose has continued to produce quality numbers in those health plagued seasons. Since 2013, his numbers have continued to rise after they dropped since his first injury. He averaged 17.7 points per game in 2014-15, shooting 40%. He shot 42% in 2015-16, and then averaged 18 points per game last year, shooting 47%. But the Cavaliers are hoping and expecting that he returns to pre-MVP and MVP season caliber Derrick Rose. From 2008 to 2011, he was able to play full seasons. He hasn’t played a full season since. When he would start 81 games, he’d average 25 points per game, with 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and shot 44%. All Cleveland can realistically hope for is Rose getting close to those numbers, producing when he is in with other superstars around him (which will be new to him), and staying healthy for all 82 games.

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As for Dwayne Wade, LeBron’s “best friend forever,” he has not had the same numbers in recent years. Once there was a time where Wade played “hero ball” and was the leader of the team, putting up averages in a season of 27, 24, 30, 26, and 25 points per games. In the two championship seasons with James, he averaged 22 and 21 points per game. And that was expected with other attributes of James and Bosh. But after those years, he has gone down to 19, 21, 19, and 18 points per game in a season. Last year with Chicago was his second worst season since his debut year in the NBA. He can still shoot. He can still drive. And he can still be affective in some way out on the court. But in the past four years he just hasn’t had anyone around him to help him make an impact. Last year’s Bulls team of Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Michael Carter-Williams was probably the worst team with the most quality of talent. They just did not mesh well together.

All that being said, the big question is if Wade can find a second home in Cleveland with James, Rose, Love, Smith, and Thompson? That is a huge question for Cleveland and needs to be answered soon in the beginning of the season.

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Enough about the additions to this already stacked team. The Cavaliers will bring back Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, and Kyle Korver. They let go of Dahntay Jones, Walter Tavares, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, traded away Richard Jefferson and Kay Felder, and allowed James Jones to officially retire. But bringing back players in Love, Smith, Frye, and Korver make the Cavaliers a better match from behind the arc against the Warriors, who absolutely love to shoot the three ball. Smith last season shot 35% from behind the arc, compared to shooting 39% and 40% in the two seasons prior with Cleveland. Love shot 37% last season. Frye shot 40% last season, and 37% the season prior. And Kyle Korver, with his unorthodox form, led the NBA last year with a 48% three-point shooting percentage.

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When you add the shooting of Rose, Thomas, and even Jae Crowder who can knock three’s consistently, this year’s team has the makings of an even better offensive team of year’s past. Crowder shot an amazing 39% from three-point land last year, and for a player of his size, that is a dangerous and special asset to have on your team.

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Obviously, with LeBron James leading the way, and Kevin Love as the co-sergeant on the team, it almost feels like championship or bust with these guys. In the Eastern Conference, it’s a joke once again. Atlanta lost all their fire power, getting rid of Dwight Howard, Mike Dunleavy, and Thabo Sefolosha. Toronto will be the same team, not having enough power to take down Cleveland behind Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valančiūnas, and DeMar Derozan. Washington has some promise this year only because of the hyped up talk by John Wall. With Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Jodie Meeks, they have a lot of talent to at least make the Eastern Conference Finals. And Boston should get back to the final four even without Thomas and Crowder. They’ve added Irving, young talent in Jayson Tatum from Duke, Gordon Hayward from the Jazz who played under Head Coach Brad Stevens at Butler, and have promising talent with Al Horford and Marcus Smart. Boston will be a fast team this year, and a very interesting team to watch. It’s just hard to comprehend that they have enough in them to take out the Cavaliers.

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With a 90% of getting back to the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers just have to watch out for Golden State, who bring back everyone after their 5th championship season. They’ve resigned Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, David West, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, and Javale McGee. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are back. And they’ve added special talent in the likes of Nick Young and Omri Casspi. Don’t look now but we could be looking at the first ever fourth NBA Finals in a row that features the same two teams.

Marquee games for the Cavaliers in 2017-2018:

When it comes to key games on the schedule anymore in the NBA, just look at games that feature annual playoff teams. For Cleveland, here they are:

  • October 17: Cavaliers vs. Celtics – Kyrie Irving returns to Quicken Loans Arena, this time wearing the green of Boston.
  • October 24: Cavaliers vs. Bulls – Former Bulls Rose and Wade play their former team as members of the same team.
  • October 29: Cavaliers vs. Knicks – Rose faces off with his former team of last year at The Q.
  • November 9: Cavaliers @ Rockets – Cleveland gets their first taste of the new look Rockets who feature James Harden, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, and Demetrius Jackson.
  • December 14: Cavaliers vs. Lakers – LeBron James faces off with rookie phenom Lonzo Ball, and could Lavar Ball make an appearance at The Q? Probably.
  • December 25: Cavaliers @ Warriors – It’s the rematch of last year’s NBA Finals series, but this time Curry gets a look at the new look Cavaliers.
  • January 3: Cavaliers @ Celtics – Kyrie will get to showcase his new home to James and Love in the second edition of the new rivalry.
  • January 8: Cavaliers @ Timberwolves – Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and the rest of this rising Minnesota team await the Cavaliers.
  • January 15: Cavaliers vs. Warriors – Cleveland fans get to see this two rivals face off in The Land one more time before they potentially meet again in June.
  • January 20: Cavaliers vs. Thunder – Cleveland gets a look at the new super team in Oklahoma City, featuring Russel Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George.
  • February 18: All-Star Game in Los Angeles – With all this talent, how many All-Stars will the Cavaliers have this year? 4?
  • February 25: Cavaliers vs. Spurs – LeBron faces off with his favorite coach in Gregg Popovich and the MVP caliber forward Kawhi Leonard.
  • March 11: Cavaliers @ Lakers – The stars will be out in full force too see Lonzo face LeBron. Could it be a potential sight of the future with both on the same team in LA next year?

Season Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers win NBA Finals over Golden State in seven games. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Day Sports Preview

By Brendan DeVenney

For this year’s Christmas Day, we get a big treat when it comes to watching sports all day in celebration. From early in the day to late at night, we will get bombarded with both NFL football and NBA basketball.

And it’s not regular matchups that you would see on a daily basis, like the Bucks taking on Detroit. We’re talking about playoff caliber football and basketball this coming Sunday.

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, the NFL had to move a good majority of their games to Saturday (Christmas Eve) to accommodate the NBA and still let them have their day.

For the NBA, this is their Thanksgiving. The NBA usually schedules five marquee matchups for this day, starting from noon all the way to 10:30 at night. Playing on Christmas Day is taken as an honor in the NBA, meaning that you are one of the best teams in the league. For the most part, every team playing this coming Sunday we will see in the playoffs. (Except for the Lakers and Timberwolves, who both enter with dismal losing records.)

For the NFL, this is a rare occurrence. From September to February, they own Sunday. Well when Christmas falls on the first day of the week, what do you do? You move the games back to Saturday, Christmas Eve. 12 of the 16 games in Week 16 will be played on a Saturday, giving it a college football feel. There will still be the Thursday Night Football game and the Monday Night Football game. But this year, we get two marquee matchups on Christmas. Each team is fighting for their right to play in the postseason, and both games are divisional rival matchups.

With that being said, let’s preview each game on Jesus’ Birthday.

12:00 – Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks – Madison Square Garden

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Both the Knicks and Celtics squared off in early November, and it was Boston who came away with a convincing 115-87 win. That automatically makes the Celtics the favorite going into this matchup. In that win, Isaiah Thomas put up 29 points for Boston. Thomas has emerged as the real leader of Brad Stevens’ squad, averaging 26.6 points per night. Along with Thomas, Jae Crowder has been holding his own and is a monster outside and when he drives. He’s averaging 13 points per game for the Celtics and is going to be a tough matchup for New York to go against. The Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony who’s averaging 22.5 points per game, but then you add Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis, who have made this New York team dominant this year. They both add a better outside and inside presence on this team. The Knicks have the most Christmas Day wins with 22, and they could very well get 23 this Sunday.

Prediction: New York by 15

2:30 – Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers – Quicken Loans Arena

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This is the first rematch of the 2016 NBA Finals, and it looks very different from a year ago. This time, the 2015 Champion Warriors have added former Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who has been able to make the Warriors a threat to the Cavaliers chances to defend their title. He’s averaging 25.9 points a game, and adds a physical presence to the floor for Golden State, making them harder to defend. Along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, they are a better three-point shooting team than last year, shooting 38% from behind the arc. For Cleveland, they are without JR Smith, out with a right thumb injury for 12 weeks, and have no major presence inside versus this Golden State team with Mozgov not on the roster this year, and Channing Frye isn’t able to fill in that role. The Warriors are coming off a very scary 119-113 win over Detroit on Friday, while the Cavaliers were able to rest their regular rotation guys with an 119-99 blowout with over Brooklyn. This Finals rematch has the making of a classic, that is if LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are all putting up 20-plus points. The Warriors are obviously the favorite going into this one, and it will probably end up just like last year’s Christmas Day matchup where the Warriors were able to get a convincing 89-83 win, in a game the Cavaliers looked lost.

Prediction: Golden State by 10

4:30 – Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Heinz Field

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The first NFL game on Christmas features two divisional rivals who are battling for the AFC North title. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have easily taken hold of the rocky AFC North division. The division is up for grabs every year between the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals, and that is never more evident than this year. Pittsburgh enters at 9-5, and Baltimore enters at 8-6. For the Steelers, a win clinches the division, whereas Baltimore needs this one to stay alive. Some experts have picked the Steelers to actually make the Super Bowl this year, and rightly so with Ben Roethlisberger somehow having himself another huge year. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have been explosive this year once again, with Brown receiving for 11 touchdowns and 1,188 yards, while Bell has run for 6 touchdowns and 1,146 yards. They have been so hard to stop for any defense this year, so what does that mean for Baltimore? Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Ladarius Webb of the Ravens defense need to have a huge game trying to stop Pittsburgh’s offense. Joe Flacco can only do so much so it will come down to defense for this Ravens team at Heinz Field.

Prediction: Pittsburgh by 2 TD

5:00 – Chicago Bulls @ San Antonio Spurs – AT&T Center

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This is one of the more interesting matchups in the NBA on Christmas, as the Bulls have been slowly seeing what they are like without Rose, and the Spurs are just doing Spurs-like things at 24-6. Chicago is definitely a different team without Rose, but they haven’t fallen way down. They were able to acquire Dwayne Wade as their now starting shooting guard and Rajon Rondo at point. Even with a starting lineup that features Wade, Rondo, Jimmy Butler at small forward, and Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez as their big men, they’ve found it hard to win games. They’re shooting 44% from the field, a dismal 30% from behind the arc, and have struggled to play good defense. They’re inconsistent as well, with losses to Milwaukee, Washington, Charlotte, and Minnesota. But they’ve been able to knock off Cleveland, San Antonio, and Miami twice. Yet, for Gregg Popovich’s Spurs, they are rolling with the retirement of Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard, Lamarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are all hot right now, as the Spurs were able to go on a 9-game winning streak, plus start the season with a dominating 129-100 win over the Warriors.

Prediction: San Antonio by 20

8:00 – Minnesota Timberwolves @ Oklahoma City Thunder – Chesapeake Energy Arena

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You can basically right in a win for the Thunder in this one. I don’t even know why the Timberwolves are playing on Christmas. A better matchup for OKC would be the Rockets or Grizzlies. Minnesota is 9-20 right now, and the only big names they have are Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Compare that to Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Jerami Grant, and Victor Oladipo. After Durant left, Westbrook was basically left by himself to lead this Thunder team. He has been averaging a crazy 31.3 points a game, and in the last three games he has put up 46 (a season high in a loss to Atlanta), 42, and 43 points. Minnesota is going to have a long day trying to defend him, specifically Andrew Wiggins.

Prediction: Oklahoma City by 20

8:30 – Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs – Arrowhead Stadium

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Another great matchup for the NFL on Christmas. How the league actually got these games right for December 25 is beyond me. However, in this AFC West divisional game, the Broncos and Chiefs are battling to make the playoffs with two more weeks left. Right now, the Broncos, the defending Super Bowl Champions, are out of the playoffs. They need a win to stay alive. Yet the Chiefs can clinch a playoff spot and eliminate Denver with a win at home. Alex Smith has had himself a career season with a 66.4 completion percentage. He has come up clutch in wins over Oakland, Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans. But no bigger win came in Week 12 over the Broncos. He was 26 for 44 in that overtime win for the Chiefs, and threw for 220 yards and no interceptions. That game is a good estimate of what could happen on Sunday. For Denver in that game, in his first season as starting quarterback for Denver, Trevor Siemian was 20 for 34, for 368 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Yet, last week in the 16-3 loss to New England, he threw 1 interception, was sacked 4 times, and was 25 for 40. You never know with Siemian, and that is basically the reason the Broncos are on the verge of missing the playoffs.

Prediction: Kansas City by 7

10:30 – Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers – Staples Center

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The nightcap of Christmas Day features the Battle of LA, as always the case on Christmas. This is the Lakers’ first Christmas in a while without Kobe Bryant, so how they qualify for a Christmas Day game still is beyond me. They’re still 12th in the Western Conference, whereas their rival is 3rd at 22-9. Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell have been doing the most work for Luke Walton. They both average the most points for the Lakers at 15.1 and 14.9 points a game. The Lakers are pretty healthy, but they have struggled to get offensive bursts to get wins. They’ve lost their last four, and they haven’t been pretty. Then there’s the Clippers who have some people believing they have a legitimate shot at making the Finals this year, and knock out either Golden State or San Antonio. This past Thursday they were able to defeat San Antonio 106-101. But in that game, they lost point guard Chris Paul to a hamstring injury. His status is uncertain, which will likely mean he won’t be playing on Sunday. That means Austin Rivers will take over at point. He’s averaging 9 points a game, but just 2 assists per game. Then you have Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick. They are the core of both the offense and defense for the “Clip Show.” Redick is averaging 15 points a game, Jordan is averaging 11 points a game, and Griffin is averaging 21 points per game. They have helped make the Clippers one of the most dominant teams in the league, and pose a major test for the struggling Lakers.

Prediction: LA Clippers by 11

 

 

 

Cavaliers off to a great start, and why it’s actually not a bad thing

By Brendan DeVenney

In 2015, Golden State got off to a 24-0 start, breaking the record for best start in NBA history. They would go on to set the record for most wins in a single season with 73 wins. All of that would not matter though when they lost three straight games to Cleveland in the NBA Finals after going up in the series 3-1.

Cleveland isn’t undefeated right now in the early season, but they are off to a very similar start. They’re currently 10-2, the best record in the NBA right now. And it starts off with the bench.

Oddly enough, LeBron James has become more of a team player, and less of a do it all kind of guy. And that confidence can only be achieved by winning a NBA Championship with this current team. Channing Frye is shooting 46.7% from the three-point range, and averaging 11 points per game. The addition of Frye back in the 2016 playoffs was huge, and it’s turning out to be a long term clutch transaction.

Mike Dunleavy, who has surprisingly appeared in 11 of the first 12 games, has transitioned nicely from Chicago to Cleveland. He’s been playing well underneath, grabbing 23 rebounds so far, and when you get him firing from long range, he can be dangerous. He needs to get confidence, though, and if you can get him flowing with Kyrie on James on the floor at the same time, which hasn’t happened often yet, that would be a major difference maker against opponents.

And the veteran James Jones is shooting nothing but lights out. 50% from the field and behind the arc, and perfect from the stripe.

But this team is gelling way better than they were at the beginning of last season. LeBron James leads the team in assists with 99 and that obviously means he’s getting his guys involved and making them contribute, and they are learning that that’s what is going to be expected of them.

Averaging 9 assists per game, James has taken a back seat to the ‘Kyrie Irving Show.’ Irving obviously excels when he drives the lane and hits from three-point range, and he has shown that in the beginning of the season. He’s shooting 43.9% from the field and 40% from behind the arc. He’s the next great Isaiah Thomas, yet he might make his case of being the next great Kyrie Irving. We’re seeing something special going on in Cleveland with this guy, even though the media might not want to pay attention to it.

The reason why this great start for the Cavaliers is actually a good thing and not a bad thing is because last season the Cavaliers didn’t seem to quite be on the same page the entire season. This year they’re taking one game at a time and trying to improve every play. They’re taking things in stride and living in the moment.

Golden State, with their 24-0 start, ran out of gas towards the end of the season and got caught up too much in their record breaking season. Cleveland doesn’t have to worry about that, and you know they won’t with LeBron as their leader.

CBB: Mason’s game-winner highlights State Farm Champions Classic

By Brendan DeVenney

The 2016 State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden opened up the competitive part of the college basketball season with four schools that are always Final Four contenders.

#2 KENTUCKY 69, #13 MICHIGAN STATE 48

The first game of the Classic featured 8-time national champion Kentucky and 2-time national champion Michigan State, and even though this one was lopsided, with the game in the Wildcats control throughout the entire game, we saw that these two teams can go deep in the tournament with their depth.

Kentucky is led by only three seniors: Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder, and Derek Willis. Thus, they’re relying on a bunch of sophomores and freshmen this year. Freshman Malik Monk (6’3″, 200) showed that he can be special going 8-17 from the field, hitting 7 three-pointers, resulting in 23 points. De’Aron Fox also was a major contributor with 12 points. He is an alum from that nationally recognized Cypress Lakes High School Basketball program in Texas.

The only senior starter was Willis, and he did not get into the scoring column. However, these underclassmen are looking good for John Calipari, and that is a great testament to his recruiting. The Wildcats were senior heavy only two years ago when they went on that undefeated season, only to lose to Wisconsin in the Final Four. But when you’re faced to go with a bunch of underclassmen, you have to make the most of it and Calipari is. One freshman that could make a lot of noise this season is Wenyen Gabriel.

As far as Michigan State goes, they do need some improving to do, but they’re still deserving of their top 15 ranking. The Spartans are spread out this year, as they always are for some reason. None of their players reached double digits. And that could probably be because they were relying on their defense to get them back in the game. They are led by freshman Miles Bridge, from that Huntington Prep Basketball program. He is young but has potential. Yes, he turned the ball over 9 times and finished with six points, but he is a starter and needs to show it. Returning starter Kenny Goins struggled versus Kentucky’s defense, finishing with 9 points, shooting 4 for 6 from the field. Michigan State should get better in the weak BigTen Conference, so expect them to make an Elite Eight run this year, after being knocked out of the tournament last year in the first round by Middle Tennessee State.

Next up for Kentucky: November 20 vs. Duquesne at Rupp Arena – 9:00 P.M.

Next up for Michigan State: November 18 vs. Mississippi Valley State at Breslin Center – 7:00 P.M.

#7 KANSAS 77, #1 DUKE 75

Let’s just say the Champions Classic ended on a good note. Duke and Kansas have always matched up well historically. After Tuesday night, the Blue Devils now lead the all-time series 7-4. And the matchup at Madison Square Garden will go down as one the better games they will have played.

With under five seconds left in regulation and the game knotted at 75-75, senior Frank Mason III, after averaging 12.9 points in 2015-16, went to the left elbow and pulled up for a quick game-winner to make it 77-75 with 1.8 left on the clock and win the game for the Jayhawks.

Mason is no doubt going to be special this year, along with his other teammates who can be considered trees. Bill Self has 6’10” Carlton Bragg, Jr., who started and finished with 9 points, 6’9″ Dwight Coleby, 6’10” Landon Lucas, who started and finished with 2 points, 6’10” Evan Maxwell. Now, they all aren’t going to play and be out there together, but at least Self has great depth under the basket this year.

But back to Mason, who led the Jayhawks with 21 points going 8 for 13 from the field. He could totally be a Naismith Player of the Year and an electric current for this year’s Kansas team. The fact that he was cool with the ball under pressure, pulling up from the elbow, and winning an early season game versus Duke shows that he has NBA potential written all over him. He has been an all-star years in the making, and now as a senior he can lead the nation as the guy this year and the face of college basketball.

For Duke, it was fun being #1 while it lasted. Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski is coming off of a season where his team had an up and down season, not completely ruling the ACC. The Blue Devils, much like Kentucky, are a young team. Luke Kennard is back and he is no doubt going to be the offensive leader for Duke, as they try to make a push for a 17th Final Four appearance. Kennard contributed with 22 points, going 7 for 10 from the field, 2 for 4 from behind arc. And a guy Coach K is going to be happy he has all season long is Chase Jeter from Bishop Gorman, a national high school football power, who is 6’10” and had 4 rebounds with 7 points for the Blue Devils. This team can spread the floor well and will be scary in the tournament this year, and should be a favorite to win the ACC.

Next up for Kansas: November 18 – College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic vs. Siena at Allen Fieldhouse – 7:00 P.M.

Next up for Duke: November 19 – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament vs. Pennsylvania State at Mohegan Sun Arena – 12:30 P.M.

LeBron James re-signs with Cavaliers, plus a look at the 2016-17 schedule

By Brendan DeVenney

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers have re-signed their 12x time All-Star forward LeBron James to a 3-year, $100 million deal to help defend the franchise’s first ever title.

The now 3x champion will be making $31 million this upcoming season, making him the highest paid player in the league, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

General Manager David Griffin, in my opinion, has done a phenomenal job building a championship roster. Now all he needs to do to complete the roster for this upcoming season is shooting guard J.R. Smith. James on Thursday mentioned about how excited he is to get the “band back together” and that he wants the Cavaliers to get the deal done with Smith. According to 247Sports.com, the Cavaliers do have a multi-year deal on the table for Smith. We will just have to see where that takes them.

The Cavaliers, with the roster that they have now without Mozgov, Dellavadova, Dahntay Jones, and Kaun, will be the second team favorited to win the title this upcoming season even though they are the defending champs. They now have a super star team that they have to chase, and it is again the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors did not lose much in the offseason, but they did add 7x All-Star small forward Kevin Durant, after Durant was a free agent and chose the 2015 NBA Champions over his former team Oklahoma City.

Imagine this starting five for Golden State: Curry, K. Thompson, Durant, Green, Iguodala. Match that up vs. this starting five for Cleveland: Irving, James, Love, T. Thompson, and Smith. Now, realistically, which one would you take? The one with more size and athleticism right? I would think that would be Golden State.

A LOOK AT THE 2016-17 SCHEDULE:

The NBA released the Cavaliers upcoming regular season schedule on Thursday, and it has the Cavaliers opening the campaign at home versus the new New York Knicks and their big three of Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, and Derick Rose on October 25 at the Quicken Loans Arena. Tipoff will be at 8:00, but prior to that the Cavaliers will receive their championship rings and they will raise the first ever NBA Championship banner at The Q.

Cleveland’s first road game will be in the country up north versus the Eastern Conference Finalist Toronto Raptors on October 28 at 7:00, who fell to Cleveland 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016.

The Atlanta Hawks will play Cleveland for the first time since getting swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on November 8 at the Quicken Loans Arena at 7:00. The Detroit Pistons, the first team that Cleveland swept and took care of in the 2016 Playoffs, will visit Cleveland on November 18 at 7:30.

The Cavaliers will face off with former teammate and the guy every Clevelander loved, Matthew Dellavedova, on November 29 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center when the Cavaliers take on the Milwaukee Bucks.

LeBron James will face off with best friend Dwayne Wade for the first time when Wade will be in a Chicago Bulls uniform will be on December 2 in the Windy City at 8:00.

The Cavaliers will face off with former teammate and grizzly bear, Timofey Mozgov, on December 17 when the Cavaliers welcome the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers.

Cleveland will host their first Christmas Day game since December 25, 2008 when LeBron James was in his first stint with the Cavaliers. That game was versus Washington and the Cavaliers won 93-89.

However, this Christmas in Cleveland will be a little different. It’s the first time that rivals, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, will meet since that Sunday night in Oakland in early June, where the Cavaliers took down Stephen Curry and the Warriors to finish the historic 3-1 comeback and win the NBA Finals. Now obviously Curry and Durant and the rest of the Warriors will be looking to seek revenge, but all LeBron will have on his mind is to send a message to the league that he still runs the NBA.

That game will be a 2:30 tipoff at the Quicken Loans Arena.

After that, the Cavaliers will have a six-game road trip out west from January 6 to January 16, that wraps up in Oakland in the final regular season matchup with the Warriors.

LeBron James and company will face off with San Antonio for the first time without TIm Duncan on January 21 at The Q, and will take on Oklahoma City for the first time without Kevin Durant on January 29 at The Q.

After that, Cleveland will face divisional foe Chicago two more times, and the Dwayne Wade-less Miami Heat three more times. The Cavaliers wrap up the 2016-17 regular season at the Quicken Loans Arena on April 12 versus the Toronto Raptors.

The Cavaliers will have 34 of their 82 regular season games nationally televised. And they have 9 Sunday games, one of which being the Christmas Day game at home vs. Golden State. No one likes Sunday afternoon or evening games.

Cavaliers re-sign guard/forward and 3x champion James Jones

By Brendan DeVenney

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers have brought back another key part of their championship caliber ballclub.

On Tuesday, they signed shooting guard and forward James Jones to a contract extension worth 1 year, $1.5 million dollars.

Jones has been to six straight NBA Finals, all with LeBron James making him a three-time NBA Champion. He played in five of the seven NBA Finals games in 2016, not doing much playing only four minutes on the court. He only averages 3.7 points a game with 1 rebound, and 0.3 assists.

So why would the Cavaliers bring him back? Well he has been along LeBron James four six straight years now, has been with him through the good, bad, and ugly, and has always had his back, whether it be on the court or off. And one thing that we have all learned is that if you want to win with James, you need to make him happy. Jones was a must to re-sign.

Here’s to hoping, however, that he can contribute a little more in the 2016-2017 season.

One thing we do know, however, he is a loved teammate wherever he plays.

Dahntay Jones released by the Cavaliers

By Brendan DeVenney

On Saturday evening, it was announced that one of the greatest Cavaliers ever to wear the Wine and Gold has been released by the 2016 NBA Champions.

Dahntay Jones.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating by saying the greatest ever, because that’s obviously not true. But how lucky is this guy to have been signed on the final day of the regular season by Cleveland, and end up getting a ring with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.

Jones was realistically with three organizations in the 2015-2016 season, having been acquired by the Brooklyn Nets in September, being traded to the Detroit Pistons and playing their NBA Development team, the Grand Rapid Drive, in December, and then being acquired by the Cavaliers on April 13.

Jones appeared in one regular season game (a 112-110 loss to Detroit) and 15 postseason games.

During his oh so short stint with the Cavaliers, he made sure to make it a memorable one.

He was electric on offense, for this one time.

But in his real position – the bench – is where he was most effective.

Oh yeah. HE EVEN FOUND A WAY TO GET HIMSELF SUSPENDED…FOR THIS!

Dahntay Jones will always be remembered for his memorable moments with the Cavaliers, even though they were very strange.

Jones is the fourth NBA Champion to leave the Cavaliers during the offseason. Matthew Dellavedova was traded to Milwaukee, Timofey Mozgov decided to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Sasha Kaun retired from the NBA after his only season in the league.