Cavs displaying unity, and yes, having some plain old fun
Random stuff following the Cavaliers’ 119-98 hammer job of the Magic at Orlando on Wednesday:
— Well, that was sure easy. Kyrie Irving came back, Dion Waiters stayed in the starting lineup and Spencer Hawes and Tristan Thompson made us forget Anderson Varejao was out with a shoulder injury. I realize the Magic stink, but that’s not the Cavs’ fault. They beat a team they should beat — and the Cavs didn’t just beat the Magic. They tanned the Magic’s basketball hides.
— More impressively than the beatdown itself was how the Cavs went about it. They were relentless in looking for the best possible shot, making the extra pass and hitting from the perimeter. And they weren’t just perimeter heaves. They were good looks. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them more aggressive and more certain of themselves offensively.
— Another thing to consider: This is the type of game the Cavs may have lost earlier this year. But they seem to be more cohesive than at any other time, and that includes the six-game winning streak in February.
— The Cavs (31-45) have won five of six. I didn’t even think they played that badly vs. the Nets (the loss). They just couldn’t get anything to fall.
— And so much for Irving disrupting chemistry after returning from a biceps injury. And so much for the actual injury, considering he went 7-of-8 shooting for 17 points. Waiters scored a game-high 26 points, so starting next to Kyrie didn’t really seem to throw off Dion, either.
— Mostly, Irving’s presence really seemed to provide a lift for Thompson (20 points, 11 rebounds) and especially, Hawes (20 points, eight boards). Hawes scored 18 of those in the first half, and right away, you could tell he was a happy man to have Kyrie back in the mix. They clearly have a special connection.
— A lot of folks have asked if I think Hawes will re-sign with the Cavs after the season (he’s a free agent). My answer is always yes. While I’ve been wrong before, I think the odds are exceptional. He seems like he’s really enjoying himself – again, particularly when Kyrie is playing.
— Granted, I have major doubts about Luol Deng (another free agent). But the Cavs will certainly make an offer. I just think it will be a little lower than what Deng and his camp are seeking (in the range of $12-$14 per year).
— Anyway, back to today. I’ve questioned Mike Brown’s offense quite a bit. I’ve repeatedly blamed him (in a roundabout way) in print and on the airwaves. But I’ve always said I like Brown and I’m a fan of his philosophy. I just questioned whether he could get through to his players. Well, he sure has recently. And if we’re going to toast Brown for the shortcomings, we have to give him credit when things are going right. Lately, I’ve been extremely impressed. The Cavs are responding to their coach.
— Can’t believe I’ve written this much without mentioning the Cavs’ record since acting general manager David Griffin took office. I usually allude to it at least seven times by now. So, the Cavs are 15-12 under Griffin. There’s been a pretty clear change of culture in the locker room, and Griffin, too, deserves praise.
— OK, about the playoffs. The Cavs sit two games behind both the Knicks and the Hawks for the East’s final spot, with six games to go. The Knicks also have six left, and the Hawks have eight. The schedule favors the Cavs. They played the league’s toughest schedule in March, but play the second-easiest in April. I have no idea who has the easiest, but I sure would like to see it.
— As you probably know, the Cavs next play at the Hawks on Friday. The Hawks already won the season series, so they hold the tiebreaker. But they aren’t sounding like they care all that much. They’d rather play the lottery. That’s fine. The Cavs are tired of it.
— My fear is that the Cavs are due to lose. But if they play like they played Wednesday, it won’t matter. They’ll drill the Hawks.
— A bigger concern is the Knicks. They really, really want to make the playoffs. But they have some toughies coming up – including Sunday at the Heat and Friday at the Raptors. Yes, the Knicks play Sunday, then don’t have another game until a week from Friday. Thankfully, the Heat and Raptors are fighting for playoff positioning, too.
— OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll leave the final thought (with apologies to Akron Beacon Journal writer Jason Lloyd, who seems to have trademarked the phrase) to Brown. When asked about the playoffs after Wednesday’s win, Brown said: "I don’t know. I just know that where we are, we’ve got to play good basketball." He’s right about that – but hey, lately, the Cavs are doing exactly that.
— Last thought, part II: Irving pegged it after the game. "It’s fun," he said of the playoff push. "This is the first time in my career these games at the end of the season mean something."