Cavaliers, All-Star MVP James get ready for second half surge

By Brendan DeVenney

Cleveland, you are ready for takeoff.

That’s where the Cleveland Cavaliers are at as they get ready for the final 26 games of the regular season, and then their playoff run beginning in late April. But this is a new time for this season’s Cavaliers as they have a little momentum heading into the second part of the regular season.

First off, they are a brand new team. They brushed off the baggage of what was holding them back all of January. I think it’s safe to say that the month of January felt like hell for Cavaliers fans. They went 6-8 in the first month of 2018, and 1-6 on the road, including a 133-99 blowout loss up in Canada against the Raptors where they shot a dismal 38.2% and got out rebounded 63-35 to the now current first place team in the Eastern Conference.

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LeBron James celebrates with Cedi Osman, leaves Isaiah Thomas out of chest bump. (photo credit – @cediosman)

But what was holding them back was themselves. The team just did not fit well together, and something had to be done about it. Back in the offseason, the front office made moves that had Cavaliers fans thinking championship before the preseason began. Sadly, in January, they looked like a first round-and-done team. LeBron James even said at one point that if the playoffs started today (January) they would get bounced in the first round. It was players like Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Derrick Rose that made the team feel like they couldn’t get anything done. In that blowout loss against Toronto, the so-called “next thing up from Kyrie” Isaiah Thomas played 24 minutes and only put up 4 points! And as the point guard had just three assists. That type of play is not going to win you a championship from your lead point guard.

Thomas ended up being way overhyped. Coming back from an injury on January 2, he looked like he would be the missing piece the Cavaliers were looking for. Yet, he averaged 15.4 points per game, shooting 36% from the field, and as a point guard averaged just 4 assists a game. That was the problem. He wouldn’t pass the ball! When he had the ball at the top of the key, he would look to either immediately shoot a horrible fade away jumper, or drive to the basket, all 5’9″ of him. Do you know Kyrie Irving’s stats from last January with the Cavaliers? 45% shooting, 25.5 points per game, and 6 assists per game! So, yeah, Thomas didn’t fit. Neither did Jae Crowder who seemed like a waste of a body when he was out on the court, and Derrick Rose who ended up having the season we all feared, an injury plagued season that saw him play just 16 games this year.

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Isaiah Thomas, LeBron James in frustration on bench (photo credit – Cleveland.com)

So what do you do when you have this type of roster, but also have the best player in the world who wants a ring? Blow it up! Get rid of those players! And that’s exactly what Koby Altman and Dan Gilbert did on the final day of the trade deadline. Thomas went to the Lakers. Crowder went to the Jazz. We even traded Channing Frye with Thomas to Los Angeles, Dwayne Wade back to Miami, and Iman Shumpert to Sacramento, because while they were great presences to have in the locker room, they, too, were holding the team back in production. (Oh, and Rose isn’t even on a team right now that’s how bad he is!)

Never the less, they’re gone. So who’s new that has this team ready to take off for a second title? Better and younger talent that they got in return for those trades! They got rookie Larry Nance, Jr. and third-year man out of of Missouri Jordan Clarkson from Los Angeles. Nance, Jr. is obviously the son of Larry Nance, Sr. who played with the Cavaliers for the last seven seasons of his career, where he became a three-time All-Star, and led Cleveland to five playoff appearances. He also became the first Slam Dunk Contest Champion of the modern era in 1984.

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Larry Nance, Jr. throws it down in 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk (photo credit – Orange County Register)

But what Nance and Clarkson bring to the floor is youth and better options for shooting. They also bring toughness and a mindset that is emphasized on defense. That’s the one thing that Cleveland failed to realize what they need to do to win with the old team. You need to play defense to have a chance! Along with new acquisitions in George Hill and Rodney Hood, who both add some hot perimeter shooting as well and great defensive minds, this team has so much more potential to be more explosive than when they were playing really slow and looked confused on offense.

Already in their first two games they’ve played together, they were shooting the lights out. In the Cavaliers’ 120-112, dominant win over Oklahoma City to finish the first part of the season, Hood went 4 for 8 from three-point range, and shot 50% from the field to finish with 14 points. Nance finished with 13 points in 25 minutes off the bench and grabbed 9 huge rebounds. If the Cavaliers can get some more pressure underneath to rebound, that can be a way to really turn this team around. Clarkson also finished with 14 points and 4 assists.

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Jordan Clarkson celebrates with J.R. Smith against Boston (photo credit – cavaliersnation.com)

Clarkson and Nance have played together all year with the Lakers, so that definitely helps, but already in their two wins over Boston and the Thunder with a new group of guys, this new team looks ready to compete with the big dogs in Houston and Golden State. Obviously, two wins doesn’t determine how the rest of the season is going to go, but with they’re physical, savvy type of play, and how Cedi Osman has started to contribute, and J.R. Smith is starting to shoot the three even better now, you need to remember that one guy we still have on the team.

Yeah, the Cavaliers still have the All-Star Game MVP! 33 years old and still playing monster ball, LeBron James is showing signs that he’s primed to have a huge next four months with these new guys. Just by the way he’s reacting to their play in both the Boston and Oklahoma City games shows that this is what he wanted. There’s no way he was going to be able to be the father to Isaiah Thomas that he was to Kyrie Irving. Thomas for one wasn’t healthy until January, and he also wasn’t up to get that leadership from James. Now with no second man on the totem pole, everyone is equal underneath James. They’re all Robins to Batman, as George Hill put it. Hill is in his 9th year in the league, and he has already formed the right mindset being on the Cavaliers with James.

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LeBron James, Team LeBron win 2018 All-Star Game (photo credit – SI.com)

In addition, this past Sunday night could end up being a huge boost for LeBron James’ season. The All-Star Game was different this year, as it wasn’t East vs. West. This time James and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry were team captains and picked their own teams. This new format made James want to win this game even more, and it showed hitting huge shots in the final minutes to lift Team LeBron over Team Stephen, 148-145. James finished just two alley-oops away from a triple-double, in the All-Star Game! He put up 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. You could just tell this exhibition meant something to LeBron, with it also being in the midst of his feud with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham after she called him out for giving his political opinion in an interview alongside Golden State’s Kevin Durant. There always seems to be something that fuels James even more at this point in the season, giving him extra motivation to play harder and better, and at the end of the day, get back to The Finals. Did Ingraham poke the bear? Right now, after winning his third All-Star Game MVP and on a four-game win streak, all signs point to yes.

This could potentially be another “year of LeBron.” He has a new and better team now, he seems happier with where he’s at, and he has fire burning inside of him to go out and get another championship and prove everyone wrong. Remember how he took a team that consisted of Drew Gooden, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, and Larry Hughes to The Finals in 2007? That was spectacular and a feat no one else but James could have done. And remember how he brought his team back from down 3-1 in The Finals against arguably the best regular season team ever in the Warriors to give Cleveland their first NBA title? Unprecedented. That never happened before. But James did it.

This could be another major accomplishment to add to the “Book of LeBron.” This first half of the season he was playing on potentially the worst team he’s ever been on. A 6-13 stretch of basketball, probably the worst stretch in LeBron’s career post-2007. Now he has the chance to play on an entirely new and re-energized ball club and take them to The Finals.

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LeBron James, Cavs bench feeling it as they beat Boston (photo credit – SBNation.com)

This year would be LeBron’s eighth straight trip to The Finals. Michael Jordan only went to six straight. Yes, he did win all six, but he really did it with just one group of guys. James will have done it with multiple different teams both in Miami and Cleveland. Out of the players who were on the team from last year, who lost to Golden State in The Finals, 4-1, only James, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson remain. Everyone else have exited the Quicken Loans Arena locker room. So for James to bring another group playing into June would be monumental for his career.

The Cavaliers’ remaining schedule is not as difficult than their schedule in the first half of the season, but that does not give them a reason not to play hard to the end. They need to find a way to get chemistry going before the playoffs. They’ll finish the month of February facing Washington and San Antonio, both winning clubs. Then they’ll welcome a tough opponent in Philadelphia, a team many are saying is a landing spot for James next year, to start off March. They have one more big West Coast trip to face the Clippers, Lakers, Suns, and Trail Blazers. After that they have big contests with Toronto, the current one-seed in the East, and New Orleans to wrap up March. They then have one big game in April, and that’s another home matchup with the Raptors. So that’s two more games with the Raptors this season. All of their meetings with Boston have concluded, along with both Houston and Golden State. So here comes hopefully some fun basketball in Cleveland, as James and company are looking to bring another championship back home.

What’s wrong with the Cavaliers? Is a trade needed in February?

By Brendan DeVenney

For the second time since this rivalry began, the Golden State Warriors have swept the season series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season. The last time this occurred was back in the 2015-2016 campaign. On Christmas Day that year, the Warriors edged out Cleveland, 89-83. And then close to a month later in January, Golden State rolled to a 132-98 win on the road.

We all know what happened later that year in June, with the Cavaliers knocking off the team from Oakland in The Finals. During the regular season that year, it looked like Cleveland was a mile away from contending with Golden State. At that point Cleveland was relying on bench play from James Jones, Mo Williams, Iman Shumpert, and Richard Jefferson. However, they did not acquire really anyone at the trade deadline. The only move they made was trade Anderson Varejao to Portland (who ended up with Golden State), and acquire Channing Frye from Orlando in a three-team trade. Cavaliers fans did not feel any more comfortable with where their team was at at that point in the season. Even in The Finals they almost got blown out of the waters going down 3-1.

So, can that team be compared to this year’s squad? It’s hard to tell, because they weren’t losing nine out of twelve games at this point of the season. Before their 2015 Christmas Day matchup with Golden State, the Cavaliers had won six in a row. Before their January matchup that season, they had won the past nine out of ten games. Yes, they’ve historically been in slumps in the month of January and into February, but not to the extent of this. And in my opinion, it’s because Kyrie Irving is not out on the floor.

When Irving was with Cleveland, the ball movement was ten times better. If Irving was on this year’s team, it’s a good possibility that the Cavaliers may had been able to pull out a win on Christmas Day this season. For the majority of that game, Tyronn Lue had Dwayne Wade leading the point guard position. The aging Wade contributed just 13 points in that game, a lot less than what Irving would have put up. In 2016-2017, Irving averaged 21 points against Golden State both in the regular season and in The Finals.

Now, Isaiah Thomas was not active for the Christmas Day game this year. The first year Cavalier came back to play against Portland in the first game of January, and in that game put up 17 points in 19 minutes. This past Monday night was his first taste of rivalry play against Kevin Durant and the Warriors, and in 32 minutes totaled 19 points. That’s respectable for his first big game as a Cavalier. However, there were times where he looked to score first instead of pass first. That’s mostly because he always had to be score first in Boston, since he didn’t have guys around him like LeBron James, J.R. Smith, and Kevin Love. With Irving, he’s one of the best in the league at working the offense, and has handles to pass for days. Thomas doesn’t exude that the least bit. That’s why LeBron James was putting triple-doubles like crazy in the beginning of the year.

James was worrying everyone in sports media about his minutes being played. He was averaging 36 minutes a night in the first two months of the season. Since then, that number has gone down. However, he can not do everything, and that’s been proven in the past. And with Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, and Dwayne Wade, this team still is not close to beating the Warriors.

That’s why this upcoming trade deadline is vital for the Cavaliers. With James’ mind up in the air about leaving Cleveland for the second time after this season, the time is now to win another championship.

However, it’s not going to happen with a divided locker room. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, after their 118-108 loss to the Warriors, “multiple players have acknowledged there is a growing discontent and a sense of concern. Unlike previous seasons, there is doubt as to whether the Cavaliers have the capacity to fix their current issues.” What has always worked in the past has been making deals at the trade deadline. This year could see the Cavaliers moving Tristan Thompson, who has not contributed as much as the team has hoped, and possibly not using the 2018 first round draft pick from Brooklyn. Iman Shumpert could also be in talks as well.

Some players around the league that Cleveland has shopped are Avery Bradley of Detroit, Kent Bazemore of Atlanta, and DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers. Jordan adds nice size to what is already a small lineup, and is a quality scorer. The problem there is that he has reported he “wants to be traded to the Rockets.” That’s legit given he did not play against Houston on Monday night.

The Cavaliers need to find an option here somehow and get a guy that can group this team together and have them play as a team. Everyone is trying to be a hero, but that doesn’t work when you have so many All-Stars on your team.

Isaiah Thomas shines in Cavaliers debut as Cleveland defeats Portland

By Brendan DeVenney

Josh Gordon returning. Corey Coleman coming back from injury. Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Carrasco coming off the DL. Tristan Thompson returning to the court. There have been so many times in Cleveland sports the past few years where superstars have made headlining returns to the playing field/court after they’ve been injured or suspended. On Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, we saw both a return from injury and a Cavaliers debut.

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After months and months of rehab and surgeries due to a hip injury, Isaiah Thomas finally returned to the court for the first time since when he was with Boston last season in the Eastern Conference Finals. He had been urging to get back on the court for what it felt like forever, and after a few minutes back on the court, he looked like superstar Isaiah.

For the first time ever, Isaiah Thomas entered the game as a Cavalier with 4:33 left to go in the first quarter and Portland leading 19-17. After a Portland score, Thomas immediately got into a groove and showed he wants to make an impact, playing with his teammate of already two years with the Celtics, Jae Crowder, dishing an assist to Crowder that saw him drive the lane and earn Thomas the first of his three assists of the night.

Thomas’ first points in a Cavaliers uniform then came with just over a minute left in the quarter, pulling up for an uncontested jump shot on the left wing to pull the Cavaliers to within three of Portland. His first quarter would not be over though, as on Cleveland’s next possession, the 5’9” Thomas drove the lane against 6’1” Shabazz Napier, got the shot to go and earned the and-1 opportunity, tying the ballgame up at the end of the first, 28-28.

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Just with Isaiah Thomas out on the floor, it looked like Cleveland was playing with more confidence and passion, just with the rest of the roster having fun with IT finally playing alongside his brothers who he has been cheering in a suit all season long on the bench. The Cavaliers took the lead back in the second, and that saw IT hit his first three-pointer wearing Wine & Gold, making it 37-32 good guys.

We all know Thomas can shoot the ball and make moves in the lane just as magical as Kyrie Irving, his predecessor. But on Tuesday night we saw Thomas move the ball like better than when he was wearing “Celtics green.” His second assist of the night was a sweet pass to LeBron James to get the Cavaliers back within a point of Portland.

Thomas wouldn’t enter back into the game until there was three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Cavaliers had secured a lead by then, and they would not give that lead up the rest of the night. He’d make his second three-ball of the night off a fast break Jeff Green assist in the corner, and “like a layup” calmly drained it to make it 87-79 Cavaliers.

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But what may have been his best highlight of the night was a no-look pass to a baseline driving Dwayne Wade who hit a reverse layup for Thomas’ third assist of the night, showing off his underrated passing skills and making Cavaliers fans love him even more.

After Thomas drained a third three-pointer of the night to make it 100-91, IT would exit the game to a standing ovation from the Cleveland faithful. The new Cavalier would finish with 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, dishing three assists, and going 3-for-8 from behind the arc all in 19 minutes of playing time, since he was on a minutes restriction.

It looked so good to see Isaiah Thomas in a Cleveland uniform and it not being photoshopped or in NBA 2K18. You can already see he’s going to make a difference with his unmatched athleticism out on the court.

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The Cavaliers finished Tuesday night with a 127-110 win over the Trail Blazers getting them back on the winning track after three straight losses on the road. It’s Cleveland’s 13th straight victory at home at Quicken Loans Arena, their longest home-winning streak since 2014-15 when they won 18 straight. LeBron James finished the night with 24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and an amazing 4 steals. Kevin Love finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds.

While the Cavaliers love playing at home, they will have to go back on the road on Wednesday night when they travel to Boston to face their Eastern Conference rival Celtics at TD Garden for the first time this season. The last time these two teams met was back on opening night at Quicken Loans Arena when Cleveland squeaked out a 102-99 win. Isaiah Thomas will be sitting this game out.

 

 

Cavaliers fall short to Warriors in Christmas rivalry

By Brendan DeVenney

In what has become a historic rivalry in the history of the NBA within the past four years, Cleveland and Golden State went toe-to-toe in a hard fought Christmas Day game at Oracle Arena.

The Cavaliers entered having won the past 19 of 21 games, and they recently had a rare three days of rest coming off their win over Chicago. The past three years Cleveland has played on Christmas Day and holds a record of 7-6 in such games. Their 2016, 109-108 win over Golden State  was their first Christmas Day win since 2009 when they beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. But unlike last Christmas Day games for the Cavaliers, this 2017 matchup was an instant classic.

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Cleveland was able to lead for the majority of the first half. However, they did just shoot 29% in the first half all together. Jae Crowder was knocking them down from behind the arc, along with four-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love. The Cavaliers had a 28-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Warriors, who were without Steph Curry due to an ankle injury, did not grab their first lead until there was three minutes left in the second quarter, where Kevin Durant nailed a 26-foot three ball to give Golden State a 42-39 lead. That three gave the reigning NBA Finals MVP 14 first half points.

Even after a Jae Crowder triple, Golden State went to the locker room with a 46-44 halftime lead.

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Through the third quarter, Golden State continued to take charge and lead the game with Patrick McGraw’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting ability, and along Durant’s toughness. The Cavaliers grabbed just three leads in the third frame, and each time they got in front, it was via Kevin Love’s hot hand. He hit three three-pointers in the third quarter, and overall had a huge 15 points in the third frame. The rest of Cleveland contributed just eight points in the third to get ourscored 25-23 by the Warriors.

Golden State had a 71-67 lead heading to the fourth quarter, and that’s when things started to go awry for the Cavaliers. Over the years in this newly formed, history rich rivalry between the Cavaliers and Warriors, Cleveland’s Achilles heel has always been Golden State’s hot, clutch three-point shooting. On Monday in Oakland, that didn’t change, even with 2015 NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry out.

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Draymond Green hit two huge three’s to open the fourth quarter and give Golden State an 81-77 lead. The Warriors then grabbed a much larger lead with a Kevin Durant slam to make it 85-79 with just over six minutes to play.

Draymond Green and Durant play so well together, and it showed. After a Green layup, Durant hit the biggest shot of the game, a 25-foot three ball to make it 90-81 Warriors, and you could see flashbacks in your mind of last year’s NBA Finals.

But the Cavaliers did not fret. At 92-88 with 3:30 to play, it was “Peanut Butter & Jelly” time. Dwayne Wade made a nice move to the basket to cut the Warriors’ lead to two, and then 2016 NBA Finals MVP LeBron James tied the ballgame up with a drive through the lane. 92-92 with two minutes to play.

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Klay Thompson did what Klay Thompson does and that’s nail a huge three on the next possession, giving the Warriors a 95-92 lead. Then, after some bad errors by the Cavaliers and missed opportunities, Cleveland had the ball with 30 seconds left on the clock. LeBron James heard the call to action, and drove the lane on Durant hoping to get fouled and go to the lane or draw an and-1. Instead, after replay clearly showed contact on James shooting by Durant, it was called a block by Durant, and gave the ball back to Golden State, leaving Cleveland no choice but to foul to their 10th loss of the year.

The Cavaliers shot just 31% from the field, compared to Golden State’s 46% shooting. You’re never going to win a game when you shoot that poorly. Also, Cleveland had more turnovers than assists. They turned it over 14 times, and as a team had just 12 assists. The Warriors had 28 assists. 28!

The one positive that you can take away from this loss is that it turned out to not be a horrible loss. The Cavaliers stayed right with Golden State the whole time on their floor.

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If you were to give a player of the game honor to the losing team, no question it would be Kevin Love for Cleveland. K-Love tallied 31 points to lead Cleveland, and went 6 for 11 from behind the arc. Also, he grabbed 18 rebounds, a new season high for the forward.

James finished with 20 points with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. For Golden State, Kevin Durant was unsurprisingly their leading scorer with 25 points, three three-pointers, with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

The two rivals will next go at it on January 15 at Quicken Loans Arena. By then, the Cavaliers are hopeful to have some backup with point guard Isaiah Thomas in the lineup.

Cavaliers continue hot streak with Christmas Day two games away

By Brendan DeVenney

It’s hard to remember the last time that the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a hot streak like the one that they are in right now. There has not been a streak like this in a long time as the Cavaliers have won 18 of their last 19 games. And with their first of two matchups coming up with the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, they’re playing their best basketball of the season at the right time that could make that marquee game one of the best of the season.

Cleveland won 13 straight from November 11 to December 6, matching the franchise record. That streak was broken when Victor Oladipo absolutely balled out on the Cavaliers and beat Cleveland in Indiana, 106-102. But that’s beside the point, since the Cavaliers have been playing superb.

During this stretch, the Cavaliers have had the best record in the NBA at 18-1, including 8-1 on the road. That’s better the Golden State, who have gone 14-3. Better than Houston, who have gone 15-1. And better than Boston who have 14-5.

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In this stretch, Cleveland has gone 8-1 on the road, defeating a really tough New York Knicks team at Madison Square Garden, 104-101, that saw LeBron James hit yet another huge shot in a clutch moment, and outlast a young, promising Wizards team in D.C., 106-99. Those two games brought the best out of the Cavaliers, showing a set rotation. This stretch has seen surprising production from bench players like Jose Calderon and Cedi Osman, with Calderon even starting most of the games due to Derrick Rose’s absence. He has been shooting 51% from the field this year and is shooting 50% from behind the arc. And Osman has had to come up big in most games with Tristan Thompson out but soon to be back. He’s shot 52% from the field and has been a spark off the bench.

Osman has now become comfortable enough with this championship team that he can be in the right position to be in a fast break score with James, or hit an outside three in big moments. This is his first year in the NBA and he’s playing like he’s a veteran in the league.

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Another highlight of this stretch has been the play of LeBron James. With the win over Washington, James has now recorded three straight triple-doubles, six this season and five of them being in this 18-1 stretch. Recently named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the second time in three weeks, James averaged 24.8 points, shooting 52.2% in the Cavaliers 4-0 week (with wins over Atlanta, Los Angeles, Utah, and Washington). The three-time NBA champion also has an NBA best 13.5 assists, and has played a staggering 38 minutes per game.

In addition, James also ranks first in triple-doubles, first in double-doubles, first in assists, sixth in rebounds per game, and sixth in points per game. With his ball movement and moderating of the offense on the floor, the Cavaliers have started to shoot the ball at an alarmingly high rate. The Cavaliers have hit ten-plus three-point field goals in 20-straight games. Only two other teams in NBA history have reached that mark. They have also scored 100-plus points in 24-straight games, the second longest streak in franchise history.

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Now at 23-8, Cleveland is ranked third in shooting in the NBA with a 48.4 field goal percentage, and eighth in three-point shooting with a 38.2 three-point percentage. Kyle Korver has continued to be a great pickup for the Cavaliers, shooting 86.8% from behind the arc. Dwayne Wade has become the leader of the second unit after volunteering to come off the bench, and has fallen right in place playing his friend LeBron James.

They have also been playing their heart out on defense. The Cavaliers have the fourth best defensive three-point percentage in the league at .348. During this stretch, they have allowed just 8.4 8.4 fast break points, and they’re doing all of this without their best defensive catalyst, Tristan Thompson. That has made Kevin Love and Jae Crowder, two other big men for the Cavaliers, to play a little out of position and they have stepped up to the challenge.

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With just two more games against Milwaukee and Chicago before their Christmas Day matchup and NBA Finals rematch at Golden State, they should be the favorite to win that marquee matchup against the Warriors. Between the two powerhouses, the Cavaliers have been playing their best basketball in the month of December. Yes, Cleveland is on a five-game winning streak, while Golden State has won their last eight. But when you match these two teams up, Cleveland has better depth than the Warriors, and have been shooting the ball a little better. It’s all about if the Cavaliers can contain Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.

James’ clutch shot helps Cavaliers defeat Kings for 13th straight win

By Brendan DeVenney

Many people don’t know this, but LeBron James has a rare condition in his cardiovascular system. It’s called “ice in his veins.” Only a few of the best NBA players have had it over the years, and LeBron James, luckily, has been the recipient of it.

“Ice in his veins” has helped James become one of the premier clutch shooters over the years in the league, and never before has he showcased the unique ability more than the first half of the 2017-2018 season. In addition to the Cavaliers and Heat being the lucky teams to have that “condition” be a positive for their team, many teams in the league have been on the other end of it, being torched by James’ clutchness. On Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings would be the latest team to be knifed by “ice in his veins.”

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When do we get to have Isaiah Thomas back?

Wednesday nights ballgame against Sacramento at Quicken Loans Arena turned into a scare for Cleveland, as the Kings were in the lead in the late stages of the fourth quarter. Fellow St. Vincent-St. Mary standout, Brewster Academy graduate, and St. John’s product JaKarr Sampson gave Sacramento what would be their last lead of the game at 95-93 with just over 3 minutes left in the ballgame.

Then with 2:20 to go, Jeff Green drew a foul off of Kings’ star Zach Randolph, and went to the line to tie the ballgame up at 95-95. That’s when LeBron took over the final minutes, and iced the game for Cleveland.

With a minute and a half left, James drove the right lane and put a layup high off the class, almost Kareem Abdul-Jabbar like, and gave Cleveland the lead back. Then the Cavaliers’ defense showed how much improved they are from last year, forcing Sacramento to turn the ball over via a shot clock violation! That does not happen a lot anymore in the NBA. So with Cleveland having the ball back, Mr. Clutch joined the party.

With 20.6 left on the clock, James went to work on a baseline inbound. With the ball on the right wing and defended by his fellow Fighting Irishman and Akron native Sampson, James stepped back and drained a game-winning three ball, giving Cleveland a 100-95 lead. The Cavaliers would go on to win 101-95 for their 13th straight victory. This was LeBron’s biggest clutch shot of the year since he called game over Kristaps Porzingis back in November at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

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For those that say LeBron is past his prime, they must be living under a rock. James has totaled 705 points, 200 rebounds, and 214 assists in the first 25 games of the season. He is just the 3rd player to reach the 700/200/200 club in the first 25 games in NBA history. In addition to that stat, LeBron made a season high 5 three-pointers last night, giving him his best three-point percentage in his career in the first 25 games.

James finished just an assist shy of another triple-double, putting up 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, going 12 for 18 and 5 for 8 from behind the arc. Kevin Love finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Jeff Green also had a big night, finishing with 17 points on 6 for 8 shooting. And Kyle Korver put up 15 points, going 4 for 8 from deep.

Kyle Korver also reached a new milestone in the win over Sacramento. After giving the Cavaliers lead after draining three straight three’s to open the fourth quarter, Korver now has 31 total three-pointers in the fourth quarter this year, the most in the NBA.

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Cleveland has now won 13 straight games, tying the franchise record winning streak set back in LeBron James’ first stint with the Cavaliers. Cleveland won thirteen straight in March of 2009, and that was later tied, not broken, in February of 2010. The streak was broken in 2009 by Washington on the road, and then in 2010 by Denver at home, but that was fresh off the All-Star Break.

Cleveland has the chance to break the franchise record with their 14th straight win on Friday night on the road against the Indiana Pacers. The 14-11 Pacers are 9-5 at home in the beginning of the season this year, which makes Bankers Life Fieldhouse a very tough place to play. But Cleveland will have good memories returning to Hoosier Country for the first time since sweeping the Pacers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs last April.

Cavaliers win nine in a row, LeBron ejected against Miami

By Brendan DeVenney

History was made on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in a way you may not have thought. For the first time in his 15-year career, LeBron James, 13-time NBA All-Star, 11-time NBA All First Team, 4-time NBA MVP, 3-time NBA Champion, 2-time AP Athlete of the Year, and 2-time SportsIllustrated Sportsperson of the Year LeBron James, got ejected from a regular season game. Never in 15 years, even when he was learning as a rookie to deal with professional referees, has James been ejected from a game. And in case you’re wondering about his high school years at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary, he never got ejected in those four years neither.

It happened towards the end of the third quarter. After James drove the lane against James Johnson and put up a missed shot, James immediately ran arguing at 9 year NBA veteran official Kane Fitzgerald, pleading his case that he got fouled. Fitzgerald saw it more than just arguing, however, and heard and saw some things that he didn’t care for, and made his decision on James’ acts all night long.

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It was shocking to everyone watching the game both in the arena, and watching from home. LeBron James: ejected from an NBA game. Like LeBron said after the game, “They always say there’s a first time for everything. Tonight was the night.”

Despite that incident in the third quarter, it was yet another dominating night by Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who rolled past the Miami Heat for their ninth win in a row. Love came out firing in the first quarter, finishing the first with 22 of Cleveland’s 35 points. He shot 6 for 9 from the field and connected on 3 for 5 from behind the arc. The Cavaliers led Miami 35-24 after the first quarter, and they wouldn’t surrender that lead the rest of the night.

Cleveland really started to pour it on the Heat in the second quarter. They outscored the Heat, 40-25, to lead 75-49 at halftime, their highest scoring half of the season. In total, the Cavaliers shot 61.7% in the half, 47% from deep. Love totaled 32 points at halftime, with James collecting 16 first half points.

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It was over in the first half, despite Miami making a late run in the fourth quarter where they actually outscored the James-less Cavaliers, 23-15. Kevin Love finished with 38 points on the night, 10 for 16 from the field, 4 for 8 from three-point range, and grabbed 9 rebounds. It was his night, as teammates kept on feeding him the ball knowing he was feeling it in the first half. This season has really been one for Love to shine. Dwayne Wade also had himself a night, finishing with 17 points, going 8 for 16 from the field.

The nine game winning streak for the Cavaliers is now the longest active in the NBA after Boston’s 16-game winning streak actually was snapped against the same Miami Heat last Wednesday night. Cleveland will look to make it ten in a row this coming Thursday night down in Atlanta against the 4-16 Hawks at Philips Arena.

James continues to dominate Jordan’s team in seventh straight win

By Brendan DeVenney

LeBron James and Michael Jordan may never played against each other, but they do face each other now whenever LeBron James faces Charlotte. Jordan became the owner of Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) in 2010. Since then, whenever James faces Charlotte, he is 24-1 against Jordan’s franchise. He would make that 25-1 on Friday night in Cleveland.

It was “Blackout the Q” night in honor of Black Friday on Friday night, but it was no blowout the Cavaliers were hoping for. The Hornets, who entered winning their past three games, gave Cleveland all they had for four full quarters. The two teams had previously just played back on November 15, so they entered very familiar of one another.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the past few years has continued to prove his worth to the Hornets franchise. This season he’s averaging 8.4 points a game with a 53.2 field goal percentage. In the first matchup with Cleveland, Kidd-Gilchrist put up 22 points on 10 for 14 shooting. On Friday night, he had a similar performance, but not enough as Cleveland found an answer for him.

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That answer? LeBron James. That was the matchup all night long at Quicken Loans Arena. Both teams’ main scorers went back and forth, but it was James who got the better of the six-year man out of Kentucky. James put up 27 points in 40 minutes, 21 of those points coming in the second half. James captured his 57th triple double of his career and 2nd of the season in the third quarter. He earned 19 points through three quarters, along with 11 rebounds and 11 assists. So it’s safe to say LeBron was on fire early and often.

It was the third quarter where Cleveland really got going, outscoring the Hornets 29-25. The Cavaliers hit seven three-pointers in the third frame. LeBron James and J.R. Smith both hit three of those seven, with Kyle Korver adding the other. Yet, Charlotte was still hanging around led by Kidd-Gilchrist and veteran-who-should-retire Dwight Howard, trailing just 83-82.

Howard finished with 20 points to lead the Hornets. It goes as Howard’s third straight game with 20-plus points. He previously put up 26 on Washington and 25 on a very promising Timberwolves team. However, it would not be enough as the Cavaliers’ defense stood firm, holding the Hornets to 5 for 23 shooting in the final quarter, and 0 for 8 from behind the arc. Cleveland held the Hornets to 38.3% shooting (that’s 36 for 94), the lowest they’ve allowed all season long. The only reason it ended up being a one-point game was because of really bad basketball in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers’ playing really lax on offense.

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LeBron James finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists, and 3 blocks. J.R. Smith had a phenomenal Black Friday as well, finishing with 16 points on 3 for 9 shooting from behind the arc.

The Cavaliers have now won seven straight and look to make it eight on Monday night when they travel to the “City of Brotherly Love” to fcae the Philadelphia 76ers. As of Friday, Philadelphia has won 4 of their last 5, but not even before December, they’ve played the defending champion Golden State Warriors twice and have lost both meetings, the second one by just eight. Led by Joel Embiid, the 2017 #1 draft Markelle Fultz out of Washington, and Ben Simmons, it should be a great test for both the Cavaliers and 76ers who are both playing great basketball right now.

Cavaliers make it 5 straight with blowout win over Pistons

By Brendan DeVenney

Are the Cavaliers finally finding their groove? It may had shown on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena in Midtown Detroit. For the first time in a while, Cleveland roared to a rare blowout victory in this season, winning 116-88.

The first quarter looked at first like most first quarters for the Cavaliers this season, going back and forth for the first nine minutes. But once Kevin Love started to get hot and taking over with the basketball, the game became one sided. Love finished the first quarter with 11 points, helping Cleveland start to pull away. But James put on a show as well, tallying 15 first quarter points with three three-pointers.

The story of the game really was the Cavaliers’ bench. Cleveland at halftime outscored Detroit’s bench, 26-8. Channing Frye had 8 first half points with two three-pointers. Jeff Green, who has emerged as a huge superstar on this team, finished with 4 first half points. And Dwayne Wade played a complete game overall, finishing with 6 first half points.

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José Calderón made the start for Cleveland in place of injured Iman Shumpert, who is to miss one week with a sore knee. Thus, Calderón was called upon to come up huge in an important part of the season, and boy did he come up huge.

Calderón got on the board first in the second quarter with a huge three-pointer to increase Cleveland’s lead to 23. Calderón finished with 5 first half points. In the second half, he knocked down two huge three-pointers in the third quarter, showing off his range. He made only one field goal in the first quarter, but finishing with 14 points in the win over Detroit was a huge night in his career because he finished just 4 points behind LeBron James on the same team. For the 36-year old veteran, he really showed his worth on a championship team. In his 12 years in the NBA, he has yet to win an NBA title, so any chance he gets to perform to a high level on this team is worth every dollar he is earning from Kobe Altman.

Who else showed his worth? Cedi Osman! The first year NBA rookie played a career high 14 minutes and finished with a career high seven points. He also finished with 4 rebounds. Osman is a young 22 years old and has been a huge supporter on the bench. On a night where the Cavaliers basically won the game in the first half, Tyronn Lue gave him a chance to have a night he’ll remember, and he made every minute count.

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Kevin Love finished the night leading the Cavaliers’ offense with 19 points in 26 minutes. Love has been seen as a focal point of the offense every since Lue began starting Love in the center position. Starting Love at center makes for more room on the floor for the offense, and allows for K-Love to provide more production. It has really shown as it has been either him or James leading the team in the points category at the end of the night.

In addition to Love, Calderón, and Osman having big games, Jae Crowder played in his 400th NBA regular season game and he did it in stellar fashion, scoring a season high 18 points in 26 minutes. He shot 5 for 11, 2 for 5 from behind the arc, and went perfect at the charity stripe. He also grabbed 5 boards.

The Cavaliers’ bench finished with 44 points on the night. The bench has now scored at least 40 points in 5 of the last 6 games. Also, the Cavaliers gave up a season low 88 points on 44% shooting. They haven’t allowed over 45% shooting in 4 of the 5 games during this win streak.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons

Cleveland’s win over Detroit is their fifth in a row. The win streak dates back to the team going 3-1 on their long road trip, and coming up with a huge win over the Clippers in overtime back on Friday night. They now get set to enjoy Thanksgiving at home on Thursday as they host Brooklyn on Wednesday night and host Charlotte on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. For some reason it always seems like LeBron James’ teams have home games before and after Thanksgiving. He must really like hosting Thanksgiving dinner at his house in Bath.

Interesting note: The Cleveland Monsters have a home game at 1:00 at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday against the Texas Stars. The Cavaliers are scheduled to tipoff against the Hornets at 8:00. That does not leave a lot of time for the floor crew of The Q to change the scenery of one of the NBA’s oldest arenas.

 

Cavaliers electric fourth quarter enough to take down Knicks at MSG

By Brendan DeVenney

This 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers always have a story to go along with their games. This time it’s the newly formed feud with LeBron James and the New York Knicks.

This past Saturday, James told reporters that he thought the Knicks made a mistake by taking Frank Ntilikina and not selecting Dennis Smith, Jr. in the 2017 NBA Draft. However, during pregame pressers on Monday, he told reporters that he was taking a shot at Phil Jackson, and not Ntilikina. But Ntilikina and his teammate Enes Kanter took it personally on the court at Madison Square Garden.

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In the first quarter, Wade threw up a huge alley-oop to James to give the Cavs a lead. After the slam, James hovered over Ntilikina getting the ball instead of hustling down to the end of the court to play defense. That initiated Ntilikina to shove James and have Kanter come to the rescue and start barking in James’ face while officials tried to break them up.

Drama is something that will always be a part of LeBron James’ game. He loves it and he feeds off it. After that feud and small fight between Kanter and James, New York went and built a 23-point lead at 73-50 in the third quarter. Enes Kanter was leading the way after the third quarter with 16 points and Kristaps “The Unicorn” Porzingis had just 9 points. New York was playing fast, Cleveland was playing slow. But then the fourth quarter happened.

Cleveland went down 73-50 with 2:12 left in the third quarter. But then the Cavaliers outscored the Knicks 54-28 the rest of the way, taking the fourth quarter 43-25 over the Knicks! And it was thanks to LeBron James taking over and Kyle Korver getting hot behind the arc. James at the point was a huge difference for the Cavaliers in the fourth as he had a game-high 12 assists on the night, but had just 5 points in the fourth quarter.

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The miraculous comeback has a lot to do with the Cavaliers’ hot shooting. Cleveland knocked down nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter, with five of them coming off of Korver’s hands. Korver had just two points heading into the final quarter. He finished with 21! A career high 19 points in the fourth quarter for Kyle tied his career best just eight days ago when he scored 19 points in the fourth against his former team, Atlanta.

But the huge moments came in the final two and a half minutes. Down just three, Channing Frye loaded a huge three, his third of the night, to tie the ballgame up at 97-97 with 2:16 left to play. And then after a Dwayne Wade steal off of, who else, Frank Ntilikina, the ball came into LeBron’s hands with 1:25 left in the game, and he went to work, dribbling in front of the Knicks’ superstar Porzingis, and loaded a lead taking three-pointer that silenced Madison Square Garden and got the Cavaliers bench to go bonkers. Cleveland had completed the huge comeback and did not surrender their lead after that three, winning 104-101 to move to 7-7 on the year.

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The last time Cleveland overcame a deficit of at least 23 points was over ten years ago on November 11, 2006 against Boston where they trailed 25 points at Quicken Loans Arena and ended up winning 94-93.

LeBron James finished with a team high 23 points on 7 for 14 shooting, with 12 assists and just one rebound away from having himself a triple-double. Kyle Korver led the bench with 21 points, had 5 rebounds, and went 5 for 12 from behind the arc. Dwayne Wade had a stellar night as well, finishing with 15 points and 8 rebounds.

That was a huge difference in the Cavaliers’ comeback, rebounding the basketball. They finished with 48 rebounds, 14 of them offensive.

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In the end, it wasn’t a complete game by the Cavaliers. No one wants to go down 23 points. As a matter of fact, Cleveland has yet to have played a complete game. They continuously struggle to start the game on a hot note, and are rarely leading at halftime. If they figure out how to play four complete quarters and maintaining a large lead the entire game, then they will start to become a dangerous team.

Next up: Cavaliers @ Charlotte, Wednesday, November 15, 8:00 at Spectrum Center