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Cleveland Cavaliers 60...er...61-game Recap

Chad W. Lutz
Ya know the words are hard to find. The words are hard to find. When we last left off, the Cavaliers were in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Our defense looked non-existent. We were giving up 110.8ppg, and not only that, but monster leads of our own, as was the case against Phoenix on January 26 at home. But, we’re past all of that. There appears to be some stability to the Wine and Gold’s rhythms. Passes are finding their intended recipients, players are holding onto the basketball better, and everyone seems to be getting involved more on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we…

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie drives to the hoop against Thunder center Serge Ibaka Feb. 26 in Oklahoma.
(AP Foto/Sue Ogrocki/2014)
It’s no secret that Irving is coming into his own as one of the league’s premier players. Sure he dogs like Manny Ramirez out there at times, but when it comes to clutch efficiency nobody does it better. In 32 games played in which the Cavaliers were +/- five points during the last five minutes Kyrie Irving has dropped a league-leading 132 points, twelve more than that guy, I can’t remember his name, wears number six and has a receding hairline…oh, well, anyway, he’s better than that guy when it matters most, as far as the numbers are concerned, at any rate. He came up big against Oklahoma City on the road last Wednesday and has put up strong, clutch performances against Portland (12/17), Brooklyn (10/30), Washington (11/16), and Philadelphia (11/9) to back that claim up. Although that was back when Philly was still playing basketball, instead of whatever sport they’re trying to pass off as basketball now. Kyrie upped the ante even further by dropping his first-ever triple-double against the Jazz last Friday.

2013/14 Stats Line
21.5ppg 3.4rbg 6.3apg

Luol Deng

Luol Deng cuts to the hoop in a big win against Philadelphia Feb. 18 in Philly.
(www.kingjamesgospel.com)
When we first acquired Luol Deng on January 9, I expected the former Chicago Bull to come in and net 20 points a contest and somehow magically turn this team completely around. Well, my expectations were obviously overly inflated by my love of the Cavaliers. Instead, what has happened since the trade that sent Andrew Bynum packing is the Cavs have gone 12-14. While my wildest hopes and dreams of Deng flying in on a gilded, magic carpet wielding a golden sword and swearing the salvation of our franchise from the past three years’ worth of dismay and defeat were a little overzealous, there’s a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth when I have to say we are two games below five-hundred in the Luol Deng Era. But, here’s the silver lining: the winning percentage we lay claim to with Deng on the floor is about two hundred points better than all three “formative” years without him (.280/.461). That’s not even including the games played this season before the trade.

2013/14 Stats Line
16.7ppg 6rpg 2.9apg

Dion Waiters

The dunk to end all dunks...and momentarily hault the young guard's season.
(www.veeoz.com)
What can be said about Dion Waiters? A lot, actually. Despite rumored locker-room tussles and a perhaps too emphatic throw down against Philly that’s cost him his last seven games, Dion has developed into our first scoring option coming off the bench. The young shooting guard continues to be inconsistent this season but appears to be turning things around and accepting his new role. One of the many keys to continued Wine and Gold success as a team is going to be Dion Waiters’ ability to fit in as a sixth man and score when we need him to, as opposed to when he wants to. The Cavaliers have shown moments of this kind of brilliance over the last 60 games, but only when Dion appears to work within the offensive system, instead of trying to take over or control it. Dion is listed as active and probable for Tuesday night’s game at home against San Antonio.

2013/14 Stats Line
14.3ppg 2.9rpg 2.7apg

Spencer Hawes

Newly acquired Spencer Hawes shoots overtop of Washington center Marcin Gortat in a loss at home February 23.
(www.sfgate.com)
The newest addition to the Cavaliers locker room stands 7’1” and can bury a three-pointer as if he’s uncapping a pen. The dangerous range of the big man acquired from Philadelphia before the trade deadline might actually be more impacting than the Luol Deng affair. We’re 2-4 with Hawes at the 5, but what the big man offers in the way of rebounding and ability to space the floor only conjures images of legendary Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had the uncanny ability to shoot, run, pass, and rebound with the best in the game. Spencer is averaging 13.8ppg as a Cavalier and hauls down 9.3rpg. The Cavs are running more with him on the floor, and with no timetable put in place for the return of the aging and apparently seriously ailing Anderson Varejao, there’s really no putting a price on a head like Spencer Hawes has at this stage in the game only 3.5 in back of Atlanta for the 8th playoff spot.

2013/14 Stats Line
13.1ppg 8.6rpg 3.2apg

Jarrett Jack

Unlike his original role coming off the bench, Jarrett Jack is now calling the point, and winning. (www.factoryofsadness.co)
The original design of the deal for Jarrett Jack was to provide Kyrie Irving with a formidable, veteran backup whom the young and rising star, and the team in general, could learn from and lean on for points, assists, and morale off the bench. What’s ended up happening is that Jarrett has mostly taken over Irving’s duties as the 1 and Kyrie has slipped into the role of 2-sometimes-1, depending on the situation. This has worked well for the Cavaliers so far. With Jarrett Jack at the starting helm Cleveland has gone 8-7, including key wins over Washington, Memphis, OKC, and Detroit. Irving appears to be more comfortable and in rhythm offensively and playing well off of Spencer Hawes, while Jack quietly has put in 7.6ppg and dished out 4.4apg in the last 15 games as a starter.

2013/14 Stats Line
8.6ppg 2.7rpg 3.8apg

Tristan Thompson

Working hard against Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons; working hard all season. Tristan has yet to miss a game since the start of the 2012/2013 campaign.
(www.o.canada.com)
Honestly, Tristan Thomson has been so consistent this season it’s almost too easy to overlook his play amidst everything else that has gone on with this team so far this year. He’s been so consistent he’s only missed six games in his three seasons in the league. Thompson’s 4 is one of the most underrated in the NBA. While he isn’t flashy or aerial, Tristan has put up double-figures in points every game but one since February 1, including seven double-double performances, which the forward just about averages nightly. As the Cavaliers rock when it comes to health and performance, Tristan Thompson will be key in any playoff run, present or future.

2013/14 Stats Line
12.3ppg 9.7rpg 1apg