Cleveland Cavaliers (22-34) vs. Washington Wizards (27-28)
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.
TV: 7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame starts at 5:30 p.m.)
WASHINGTON: C Marcin Gortat; PF Nene; SF Trevor Ariza; SG Bradley Beal; PG John Wall.
CLEVELAND: C Tyler Zeller; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Luol Deng; SG Jarrett Jack; PG Kyrie Irving.
— In case you didn’t notice, I’m back after about 45 hours away. This isn’t a hard job by any stretch, but it is a job. After the trading deadline and my birthday (still time to get me a gift, by the way), I needed to take a step back and recharge. So, welcome. I’m happy to be here.
— As you know, the Cavs’ six-game winning streak was snapped Friday at Toronto. I’m not sure what it is about Mike Brown-coached teams and third quarters, but it’s been going on since 2005. It happened again Friday, when the Cavs came out extremely flat after halftime and let the game slip away. Other than that, they actually played very well.
— Yes, that’s sort of a jab at Brown, and after winning six of seven games, he and the Cavs really deserve nothing more than praise. But it’s not the fact the Cavs lost that’s bothersome. It’s the way they lost, and you can’t really deny that his teams are too often lifeless after halftime. I don’t know why that it is, but it’s a bad habit.
— I love Brown the person and respect him as a coach. But as I’ve written previously, you can’t really put too much blame on the players anymore. The Cavs traded for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, and with Kyrie Irving and others on the roster, this should be a playoff team in the trouble-free East. The issues that have plagued Brown’s team in the past are still too often evident.
— OK, now for the fun stuff. If you remember, the Cavs’ six-game winning streak started against (drumroll, please) the Wizards. That was in DC. So perhaps this can be the start of something good again. To be honest, the Cavs can’t really afford to lose many more home games. And this is one they should get.
— The Cavs and Wizards have met three times this year. The home team has yet to win.
— Hawes has had some of his best games of the year against the Wizards, all when he was with the 76ers. He is averaging better than 16 points and 14 rebounds in three games vs. Washington.
— I really like what Hawes brings to this team. The Cavs have no other big man like him. He is can really shoot from the perimeter and is an outstanding passer. I hope he can overcome the clear lack of creativity on offense.
— Meanwhile, a lot of people are writing that Deng is unhappy and doesn’t seem likely to re-sign at the end of the season, when his contract expires. A lot of people are writing that his sore Achilles is an issue. But it sure didn’t seem to be a problem with the Bulls, when he averaged a career-high 19 points. It was also a bit of a red flag when Deng got to Cleveland in January and hinted that the Cavs hadn’t really installed much of an offense. It wasn’t an indictment. It was an observation. But it raised some eyebrows on this guy.
— Anyway, we’ll see. If the Cavs keep winning, I’ll keep quiet. Let’s hope Brown shuts me up and his coaching philosophy works and the Cavs make a run. Stay tuned.
— Oh, almost forgot. Anderson Varejao (sore back), Dion Waiters (knee) and C.J. Miles (ankle) are out for the Cavs tonight. This is the sixth straight game missed by Varejao, third straight for Waiters, and second in a row for Miles. The Cavs say none of the injuries are cause for alarm. Again, stay tuned.
— P.S.S. Fans have asked why the Cavs signed Arinze Onuaku, another big man, from the Canton Charge. I wouldn’t read too much into it, at least not in terms of injuries, etc. Chances are, someone else wanted to call up Onuaku and the Cavs wanted to keep it from happening. He’s really done quite well and made a name for himself in the D-League. The Cavs want to give him a look at practice. That’s really all this is.