Dribbles: Another win, another example Cavs playoff-ready
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who all but secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with Sunday’s 99-94 win over the Chicago Bulls:
1. Bring on the playoffs. That’s really all that’s left for the Cavs these days. Just stay healthy and stay motivated in these final five games — and bring on the playoffs.
2. Oh, by the way, the Cavs (50-27) have won 50 for the first time since You Know Who was here in 2009-10. Well, You Know Who has returned, and LeBron James is again the centerpiece of a team that believes it can win a championship. So yeah, bring on the playoffs.
3. As for the Bulls, they did a lot of tough talking afterward, with Joakim Noah again taking shots at the Cavs, James and any other Cleveland-related topic. "It would be great to play them in the playoffs," the Bulls center said. "That would be very, very exciting. That’s something I really hope happens."
4. Well, here’s a little something for Noah: The Cavs hope it happens, too. There’s no better place to prove you own a team than when it really matters. So, you guessed it: Bring on the playoffs. And while you’re at it, bring on the Bulls.
5. The Cavs have won 18 straight at home. They’ve gone 31-7 since a 19-20 start. Yes, 31-7. In that stretch, they’ve defeated everyone from the Golden State Warriors to the San Antonio Spurs (on the road) to the Memphis Grizzlies (ditto) to the Bulls and more. In other words, it’s not like they’ve just been beating up a bunch of patsies. The Cavs are sharp, they’re confident, they’re cohesive.
6. Noah and the Bulls were quick to point out some of the Cavs’ miracle shots. That included a halfcourt heave from Kyrie Irving to beat the shot clock. Irving also hit a high-arcing baseline jumper while falling out of bounds at the first-quarter buzzer. Then J.R. Smith nailed another 3-point prayer just before halftime. Lucky breaks? Maybe. Then again, really good teams make their own breaks.
7. The Bulls also dropped hints about how they were forced to play without injured point guard Derrick Rose and injured shooting guard Kirk Hinrich. That did indeed put them at a major disadvantage. And welcome to life in the big leagues. Think anyone felt sorry for the Cavs when James missed eight games in early January? It sure didn’t seem that way, as some national reporters tried to turn Cleveland into Drama City.
8. This isn’t to bury the Bulls or their hatred of everything Cavs. Good for them and good for the NBA. Pro basketball needs rivalries, and today’s teams are much too complimentary of opponents far too often. But reality tells us the Cavs are better than the Bulls, and a whole lot of others, at this point of the season. Now all the Cavs need to do is carry it over to late April and May. Then we can talk about June.
9. So many things are going well for the Cavs, and they are winning via so many different styles with so many different people playing leading roles. On Sunday, Irving (27 points) and Smith (24 points, 8-of-17 on threes) played so well it’s easy to forget about James. And all he did was record his first triple-double with the Cavs in five years — finishing with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
10. There was also a play where Matthew Dellavedova saved an errant pass from going out of bounds. It should’ve been Bulls ball going the other way. Instead, Delly’s hustle resulted in another Smith three. In a game where the final deficit was a mere five points, that type of winning mindset is crucial. It’s the mentality needed for the playoffs — particularly from role players such as Dellavedova.
11. Irving on his desperation 3-pointer, which was officially listed as a 52-footer: "It was a crazy play. Luckily it went in. There was no skill there. I was just throwing it up at the rim."
12. Cavs coach David Blatt on the miracle shots: "I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve never seen three like that in one game."
13. The Cavs lead the Bulls (46-31) by four games with, again, five to go. It shouldn’t be real difficult to see where this is headed. If the playoffs started right now, the Cavs’ first-round opponent would be the Brooklyn Nets, owners of the No. 7 spot. The Bulls’ would face the Milwaukee Bucks, the sixth seed. But anyone who follows this stuff knows that Nos. 7 and 8 are very much up for grabs.