Positives emerge as Cavaliers reach brink of season’s second half
It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff to say the Cavaliers are staring at a wine-and-golden opportunity.
They just completed a fairly successful swing through the Western Conference, punctuated with a solid win at Denver on Friday.
The Cavs also claimed victories at Utah and at the Los Angeles Lakers, and lost a close one at Portland.
Let’s just not talk what happened at Sacramento.
Actually, we should talk a little about it, because the Cavs’ 44-point loss was quite telling. They quit in the second half of that game.
In the other four, they did not quit — ever.
So we learned that when the Cavs play hard for 48 minutes, they’re likely to give themselves at least a fighting chance.
Now comes the second half of the season.
It officially begins following a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee vs. Dallas on Monday at The Q (1 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).
After that, the Cavs (15-25) will have played 41 games. And they will have 41 to go.
What happens during those final 41 could determine the course of this franchise for quite some time.
A million different scenarios could unfold, but we won’t have any clue about what might happen until the season comes considerably nearer to its end. With the way things are looking, it’s quite possible playoff seeds Nos. 3-8 won’t be determined until the season’s final week — perhaps it’s final day.
It’s been that crazy.
OK, back to the present. The Cavs’ next five games are all at home.
As coach Mike Brown has noted, home is where the Cavs’ defend considerably better. And while Monday is Luol Deng’s sixth game with the Cavs, it will be his first such game at The Q.
So there’s plenty, potentially, about which to get excited.
Besides the fact the Cavs (like every NBA team) are generally sharper and more enthused in front of their own fans, they’ve been somewhat more cohesive since the Sacramento debacle.
Their roles are starting to take shape, and the addition of Deng gives them the type of refined leader (and All-Star talent at small forward) that was missing.
They also seem to believe, at the end of games, that they can actually win. They’ve shown glimpses of a winning confidence, of the type of mentality that makes you believe they are moving forward on the same page.
That was especially evident against the Nuggets. The Cavs built a big lead, then started to collapse. But instead of falling apart as they did in a game at New Orleans, they seemed to become even more determined.
"We wanted it and we went out and took it," Irving said. "Couple of mistakes at the end but it didn’t rattle us."
That’s a big key. Mistakes will happen. But you have to play through them.
Irving is leading the way at 21.5 points and 6.0 assists. Deng is averaging 18.4 points in his five games with the Cavs. Dion Waiters is coming off the bench to score 14.8 a night. Tristan Thompson (12.2 points, 9.8 rebounds), C.J. Miles (10.3 points, 41 percent on 3-pointers) and Anderson Varejao (10.2 rebounds) are more examples that this team has the potential for great balance.
Are the Cavs finally putting it together?
This is a great chance to show the world that the answer is yes.