Looming road tests give Cavs chance to flex their muscle
By the time mid-December rolls around, the Cavaliers will have an even better idea of where they stand.
That’s not to say the Cavs think they’re anything less than the best team in the Eastern Conference — and if you ask LeBron James, perhaps the entire league. At least LeBron, coach David Blatt and the Cavs believe they have that type of championship potential.
But back to the next two weeks.
Four of the Cavs’ next five games are on the road, beginning Friday in New Orleans. They’re at Miami the next night, then return for a quick date with Portland (Dec. 8). Then it’s back on the road for two more — at Orlando (Dec. 11) and at Boston (Dec. 15).
The Heat, Magic and Celtics are fellow members of the East, and all have real playoff aspirations. With good health, the Heat believe they might even be able to challenge for something special.
So this is a good time for the Cavs to make another statement. They’ll tell you that’s not their primary mission, but trying to send a message or not, beating teams with high playoff hopes in their own building? Well, that tends to serve notice.
More importantly for the Cavs, it puts them in a good state of mind. Winning just makes everything seem better, especially when you do it in another gym. In those situations, all you have are your teammates, your coaches and a couple of team employees. Everybody else is pretty much against you.
The Cavs experienced the other side of that on the month’s first day, dropping a 97-85 decision to visiting Washington. It was the Cavs’ first home loss of the season (they’re 9-1 at Quicken Loans Arena), and strangely enough, it was a game in which they never led.
Frankly, they seemed a little out of sorts. And the Wizards were just good.
"They were quicker," James said. "They were faster to the ball, with the ball. They were a step quicker than us. They beat us pretty good."
Now, nobody wants to lose, but it shouldn’t be considered a huge deal, either. No team in NBA history has gone unbeaten at home. And it would be a real shocker if any team ever does.
The only time games like Tuesday become a problem is if the Cavs repeat their mistakes. They didn’t take care of the ball and they didn’t defend well enough, for long enough stretches anyway, to pull off a comeback.
Again, it’s not the end of the world, just the end of a home winning streak. But again, these are things that can’t become habits. They have to be nothing more than rare departures from the norm.
The good news is, so far, the Cavs have only experienced hiccups on occasion, as they continue to await the returns of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (knee) and valuable shooting guard Iman Shumpert (wrist).
Overall, most folks feel the Cavs are the best team in the East once again, and as of this moment, the Cavs (13-5) have the record to prove it.
Either way, now comes the road, and that can be unkind. But it can also be a time to come together, a time to win, a time to show everyone you’re indeed the team you believe you are.
Sam Amico is the co-host of Cavaliers in the Paint. His NBA column appears each week during the season on FOX Sports Ohio.