Dribbles: Real fun now awaits Cavs in playoff chase
CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 110-79 hammer job of the visiting Boston Celtics on Tuesday:
1. Not much to say about the game. The Cavs simply took care of business against a lesser team, leading by as many as 44 in the fourth quarter. LeBron James played just 26 minutes, scoring 27 points and delivering one highlight-reel of a finish at the rim.
2. In other good Cavs news, the game marked the return of Kyrie Irving following a two-game absence with a shoulder strain. Irving looked plenty healthy, scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and passing for five assists. He too played just 26 minutes.
3. Kevin Love scored 12 and grabbed eight rebounds despite a nasty stomach virus. J.R. Smith also scored 12, and Timofey Mozgov added 10 on 5-of-6 shooting. That’s right, all five starters scored in double figures. "It feels good," Movgoz said of the win in his thick Russian accent.
4. OK, that’s about it for this one. The Cavs’ real focus is on the next two. The fun starts Wednesday at Toronto. It continues Friday at Atlanta. Those are the main two teams ahead of the Cavs (38-24) in the Eastern Conference standings. It should be noted the Cavs are also a half-game back of Chicago for third.
5. More specifically, the Hawks lead the East with a 48-12 mark. Nobody’s catching them. But the Raptors are 38-22, or just a game ahead of the Cavs (and half-game ahead of the Bulls).
6. Confused yet? Good. Because it probably doesn’t matter.
7. Truth is, if you want to get to the Finals, you’d best be prepared to win at least one road game in every playoff round. And if you win one road game, guess what? You gain home-court advantage. If you don’t win on the road, you’re probably not championship material anyway.
8. Just ask LeBron. After Tuesday’s win, he said he only wants the Cavs to finish in "the top eight" in the East. In other words, as long as the Cavs make the playoffs, James feels they have a good shot — and that the final seed doesn’t really matter. After watching how the Cavs have won 19 of 23, we should probably believe him.
9. Cavs coach David Blatt: "We have a very difficult couple of weeks ahead of us. April is gonna be a month were we’ll have more time to practice and rest in between games. The main thought right now is how to improve our position going into the playoffs."
10. But unlike James, the coach admitted he has a goal. Blatt is also realistic. "I want us to finish as high as possible," he said. "If that’s second, then that’s second."
11. The key, of course, is good health and gaining some momentum heading into mid-April. It sounds simple, but Cavs fans could probably use a reminder. They haven’t experienced the postseason since 2010 (or when You Know Who left in free agency).
12. James surpassed Ray Allen for 21st on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. These types of things have never really interested me. I’ve always enjoyed basketball just for being basketball. Who wins and loses has never been as important to me as the game itself. But it does mean something to the players.