Dribbles: Cavs ‘clicking awesome,’ and now comes the scowling Perkins
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, winners of 15 of their past 17:
1. Immediately after the All-Star break, LeBron James said it’s winning time. He said it’s time to get extra serious, to start preparing for life in the postseason. After watching the Cavs wallop the Wizards on the road Friday, it’s easy to see James wasn’t just blowing smoke.
2. The actual final score was 127-89. Over the Wizards, who are good. On the road, which is never easy. But James and the Cavs took it right to the Wizards from the beginning. They looked as if this thing was never in doubt — that they just knew they were gonna win. Frankly, when the Cavs play like that, and when James scores 28 in 25 minutes as he did Friday, no one will be able to touch this team.
3. It’s true LeBron was simply on fire. He made every important basket and played with a high level of efficiency. This was a team-wide win in every sense, but it all starts with James.
4. As LeBron said after: "I am the leader of this team and I set the tempo. I set the pace, I set the aggressiveness and the guys follow me. We all have to do our job and we did that tonight."
5. Kyrie Irving wasn’t too shabby, either. He scored 25 points and passed for seven assists, and as I’ve written repeatedly, really seems to be enjoying himself out there. Seriously, the guy is simply having a good time as a key member of a winning program.
6. As Irving said: "It means a lot. This is my first time being a part of a playoff push and you have to be aware of those types of things. The coaches are aware, the whole team is aware."
7. What the Cavs (34-22) are aware of now is they sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs started today, they’d face the fifth-seeded Wizards in the first round. Based on Friday, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
8. That’s not intended to pick on the Wizards. They’re a good team that’s just going through a lull. They were also without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal, a fine young player. Beal is basically day-to-day with what appears to a minor leg issue. But not even Michael Jordan could’ve saved the Wizards on Friday.
9. Back to Kyrie. There were plenty of impressive plays, but Irving’s reverse layup on John Wall was something that will stand out for a long time. It was simply remarkable, especially when you consider Irving was fouled on the play. Even Wall seemed impressed after it happened.
10. Kevin Love also had one of the best eight-point, six-rebound games of the year. Love played 30 minutes and really wasn’t needed much. He forced nothing on offense and did a lot of little things defensively, finishing with a team-high three steals.
11. And I know I keep writing it, but I simply love watching Tristan Thompson. He has been so relentless on the offensive glass, chasing down every missed shot like it’s a brick of gold. This team has James, Irving, Love, J.R. Smith — a lot of exciting players. But I enjoy watching Thompson as much as any of them.
12. Iman Shumpert was also masterful in moving without the ball and spotting up for open 3-pointers. The more he knocks those down, the more LeBron and the rest will be inclined to make sure Shumpert gets to shoot.
13. As Irving said, the Cavs "were just clicking awesome." That really about covers it.
14. Now comes Kendrick Perkins, the scowling center who will reportedly sign with the Cavs after clearing waivers Monday. Perkins reached a contract buyout with the Utah Jazz on Saturday. He is 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds of pure rim-protecting toughness. He’s not the player he once was, but he can spell Timofey Mozgov for a few minutes a night. Perkins is also yet another new member of the Cavs who owns a championship ring — winning a title as the starting center for the Boston Celtics in 2008.
15. Best of all, Perkins comes to the Cavs after playing a reserve role with the Oklahoma City Thunder. So it’s not like he’s some big shot who’s coming in and expecting to start. And while Perkins doesn’t smile a whole lot, fans needn’t worry. He was always viewed as a good teammate and strong locker room guy in his previous stops.
16. Of course, some fans have their opinions and will judge this signing before Perkins ever sets foot on the court. But remember, it’s not about what Perkins has done with other teams. It’s how he fits in with the Cavs. A lot of people didn’t like the trade for J.R. Smith, either. And he’s been a great addition.
17. As Yahoo Sports/FOX Sports 1 insider Adrian Wojnarowski wrote: "Perkins’ talents have diminished in the past few years, but his toughness and leadership still makes him a valued presence in contending locker rooms." Amen to that one, Woj.
18. Overall, the Cavs will certainly have some tough nights in these next 26 games. It’s bound to happen. They’re going to lose a few. What’s important is to keep all that to a minimum and get a good matchup in the playoffs. The No. 3 seed and the young Milwaukee Bucks in the first round sounds a lot better than facing the Wizards or Chicago Bulls right away. Right? Right.