Sports Page

​Cavs Win Streak Extended

20-game Recap

Chad W. Lutz
​With 48 seconds left in last night's game against the Toronto Raptors, the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, Lebron James caught a pass at the top of the key, took one strong look at the basket, hoisted and sunk a three-pointer to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the ballgame since halfway through first quarter. The stadium erupted like the Wine and Gold had just won the NBA Finals. Lebron pounded his chest and high-fived fans as he and the rest of the team made their way to the bench on a timeout called by Toronto.

The Cavs trailed by as many as 14 at several points throughout the night. Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas played a big part in keeping the Cavaliers down for most of the game. Valanciunas crashed the boards, boxed out, tipped in second-chance points, and outhustled the Cavaliers' post players in just about every facet of the game. Valanciunas finished the game with 18 points and 15 rebounds on 6-7 shooting and hitting the mark on all 6 free throw tries. His play is indicative of the kind of trouble the Cavaliers have had this season in defending true big men, but where there's a will, there's a way. And the Cavs found the mojo they needed to get things going down the stretch and cut into the massive lead Toronto held for most of the game.

That has been the main storyline of the Cavaliers' recent successes. Now riding an 8-game win streak heading into tomorrow night's game against Oklahoma City, the Wine and Gold appear to be gelling the way most of us hoped when the Big 3 came together with the acquisition of Kevin Love. Every night someone steps up. Roles change. Lebron scores 30-plus like last night and barely dishes any assists or rebounds and then goes back to point guard duties the next night and scores a mere (for Lebron) 15 points but hands out 10-12 assists. Coach David Blatt appears to have the Cavs on a pure utilitarian game plan. Whatever the team needs from you that night, that's your charge. Have at it.
Kyrie drives to the hoop against the New York Knicks Dec 4 at Madison Square Garden en route to a 37-point performance.
(www.sbnation.com)
Lebron mugs for the crowd after hitting the go-ahead three pointer against Toronto Dec 9 at the Q with 48sec remaining.
(www.dimemag.com)
​Cavs fans are watching a different team from the one they saw opening night on October 30 by a long shot. After a shaky 5-7 start to the season, the Cavs have hit the throttle and they don't appear to be letting up or looking back. They're averaging 103.5ppg and 22.4apg as a team. Games where teams would hold the Cavs to under 100 points before were almost always inevitable losses. Over the last 10, the Wine and Gold have found a way to grind down opponents, whether ahead or behind, and ride out any late charges or goes at the lead. Opposing teams are only scoring 98.3ppg and shooting less than 50% from the field. We're also outrebounding other teams by a margin of 41.2 to 39.7, despite ranking 23rd in the league.

For the first time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the top team in the Central Division. With last night's win, the Cavs are now a game up on the Chicago Bulls for the division lead. While it's too early to call any sort of playoff spot for the Cavs, let alone any team in the East, it's exciting. Fans have been treated to blowout wins like the 106-74 spanking of the Orlando Magic at home on November 24, or the 109-97 home drubbing of the reigning Central Division Champion Indian Pacers on November 29. We've also seen our fair share of nail biters like the game last night or the 111-108 back-and-forth slug fest with the Milwaukee Bucks on December 2 or the 90-87 road win against New York last Thursday. The Cavs are finding ways to win, even if it isn't pretty, and most analysts will agree that's the kind of basketball you have to play if you want to win championships.