Dribbles: Blowouts keeping LeBron, others fresh
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, a half-game back of the Central Division lead and three out of third in the Eastern Conference:
1. The numbers just keep getting better, as the Cavs (35-22) have won 16 of 18. That, of course, includes another hammer job Sunday in New York. Not that the Knicks are much of a test these days. It’s almost sad what’s going on there. But all the Cavs can do is take care of business. Since the All-Star break, they’ve done it twice, on the road.
2. Kyrie Irving on the overall state of things: "We still have a long way to go, but our focus level is at an all-time high. I feel like we’re making strides in the right direction. We just want to continue to have consistency game to game and continue to communicate."
3. For the Cavs, one thing that’s been so great about the current hot streak is everyone is getting to play and the key guys are getting to rest. Against the Knicks, only Iman Shumpert was on the floor for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, LeBron James is averaging just 26.5 minutes (but still 23 points) in the two games since the All-Star break.
4. As James said Sunday: "It’s key for the long term. For me, for sure, being able to play these low minutes will definitely help."
5. Kevin Love was fantastic Sunday, compiling 16 points and 16 rebounds in just 29 minutes. I also like how he sort of called the Knicks lousy. Not really on purpose, but it was still a fair assessment.
6. Love on the Cavs (and Knicks): "We have a better focus. We know at this part in the season, we need to turn it up and take it to another level. We feel good about where we’re at and we’ll continue to keep getting better. These are the type of teams we need to beat as well as the good teams."
7. Interestingly, Madison Square Garden was eerily quiet, as Sunday’s game was basically little more than 48 minutes of garbage time. It’s hard to believe this was the same arena that rocked and rolled when hosting the All-Star Game a little more than a week ago.
8. Love on MSG: "There was one point when we were talking on defense and it was all that we heard. I tried not to think about that during the game — but when all you hear is your voices and you’re in the Mecca of basketball, it’s just a little bit crazy. I was definitely a little taken aback by that."
9. Now, the Cavs have a couple of toughies coming up. Traveling to Detroit on Tuesday then hosting league-leading Golden State on Thursday will provide some major measuring sticks. I know, the Pistons aren’t all that great, but the Cavs went to Auburn Hills and won in their previous visit. Beating a decent team on the road TWICE is a tall task.
10. As for the Warriors, well, you know their story. They lost at Indiana on Sunday but were without star guard Stephen Curry (sore ankle). It doesn’t sound serious, as Curry told reporters after the game, "I’ll be fine."
11. But again, the Cavs can’t afford to look past the Pistons. They’re an improved team since the acquisition of guard Reggie Jackson, obtained in a deadline-day trade with Oklahoma City. Jackson played his first game with his new team Sunday, when the Pistons blew out Washington.
12. Funny story from Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy on Jackson: "He got himself really hyped up to be out there. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the first time we took him out of the game, he threw up on the bench. But once he got calmed down in the second half, he looked like the player we traded for."
13. Anyway, back to the Cavs. Remember how everyone once said coach David Blatt was on the hot seat? Or that LeBron had lost a step? Or that Love didn’t fit? Doesn’t all that seem like a year ago? It’s a big reason why you have to cut through the noise, not be overly reactionary, and give things a chance. But this is pro sports and the era of social media and too many national writers only stopping by long enough to cover the negative.
14. More Love on the season: "We have learned how to play with each other and each and every player in this lineup. I think when Perk (Kendrick Perkins) comes in, it’ll give us a different dynamic, a little bit of an edge and an interior presence even with the guys we have."