Friday, December 7, 2012

Cavs Corner: Weeks 4 and 5

Am I bad luck??
Man o man, what a depressing past couple of weeks for the Cavaliers of Cleveland.  It's not like the team is getting blown out, but with injuries to Kyrie Irving AND Dion Waiters, the team has truly lacked any scoring punch.  Since my last visit, the Cavs have gone an impressive 1-7 with their lone victory coming on the road in Atlanta on a last second buzzer beater by Alonzo Gee.

Overall, Cleveland is 4-15 and are only ranked ahead of the Washington Wizards (who they beat opening night!) in the Eastern Conference and tied with the Toronto Raptors.  They are also last in the Central Division but luckily for them, it's BY FAR the weakest division in the entire NBA.  If they were in any other division, they be at least 10 games behind, if not more.  So thank your lucky stars that Chicago and Indiana pace this division hovering one game above .500.

Want some good news?

Anderson Freakin' Varejao.  "Wild Thing" leads the NBA in rebounding at 15+ per contest and is tied for first in double-doubles at 14 games (out of 18 since he missed one due to injury).  Straight up baller status.  At this point, Andy is a shoe in for an NBA All-Star and possibly STARTING for the East.  He also has 60 more rebounds than anyone in the league.  It's not because he dominates one end of the floors, it's because he dominates both ends of the floor.  He leads in both offensive and defensive rebounds per game and per every 48 minutes, the dude picks up 20 boards!  And just for kicks he adds 15 points a game too.  At 30, Andy is peaking and it seems entirely impossible the Cavs could trade this workhorse unless GM Chris Grant is just entirely blown away by an offer.

I love seeing guys get buckets over former Cavs
Alright, let's recap some games!

First up is the southeast trek made over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I was able to catch both games against Orlando and Miami.  They lost to the Magic by four and the Heat only by two.  In fact, the team had leads at some point in the 4th quarter but couldn't finish the games.  Sound familiar Cleveland fans?

On Cyber Monday, the Cavs only lost to the best team in the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies, by six points and holding them to just 84 points.  However, by the time Phoenix came to visit, it was the Cavs fourth game in five days and, again, the Suns stomped the Cavs as it was never close.

The team got a nice break until this past Friday when visiting Atlanta.  In a hard fought game, Dion Waiters took a silly fade away jumper to try and win it.  Luckily he missed so bad that Gee caught the ball under the basket and put it away for the last second victory.  Trying to build on that momentum, the Cavs returned Saturday night to play Portland.  I was in attendance for this epic match up with the broski and friends.  It was a double overtime thriller which saw Nic Batum hit two game winning shots with one being called back. It was a heart breaking loss not only because the way it ended but also because Dion Waiters sprained his ankle.  He hasn't played since.

Now that I think about it.  I've been to four Cavs games since moving here in March.  Two of them featured injuries to Andy and Dion.  Am I bad luck?  I am 1-1 so far this season so I'll need another game here soon to make any further judgments.  Luckily Moondog found his way up to my section and he cuddled me in his arms for mental and emotional relief.

After the deflating Trail Blazers loss, the team has played horribly up in Detroit and back home against the Bulls.  I don't think I have it in me to watch the team again until Waiters or Irving is back in the line up.  They are an eye sore to watch offensively.  However, in uplifting news, Luke Harangody was finally cut and the Cavs called up D-League sensation Kevin Jones.  A monster for WVU in the Big East last season, KJ was in beast mode through the early parts of this season for the Canton Charge.  As an undersized power forward, he will have to rely on his never ending motor to earn his minutes with the big boys.

Team savior?  Doubt it but he's got to be better than the Gody...

Okay, so what do we have to look forward to this upcoming week??

Tonight the Cavs head up to Minneapolis, Minnesota, hometown of coach Gordon Bombay to take on the Ricky Rubio-less Timberwolves.  Unfortunately only Uncle Wes (K. Love) will be out there for the T-Wolves and not Uncle Drew for the Cavs.  They'll be back home tomorrow night to re-match the Pistons.  Tuesday, they welcome the drama filled Los Angeles Lakers, who yes, are one game under .500 and are clinging to the 8th seed in the West.  Antwan Jamison will be back in town and I'll be interested to see what kind of ovation he gets from the peeps here in Cleveland.  On a personal note, I hope Dwight Howard gets booed mercilessly because he sucks.  At what you say?  At life my friends, at life...The final game (I try and cover 4 games a week remember??) will be next Wednesday in Indianapolis to take on the Pacers.

What are my expectations?

I have none.  Without their two best scorers, the Cavs will need unsung heroes to just have career like games (see J. Pargo vs Philly) to win these match ups.  Before their injuries Irving and Waiters were dropping 22 and 15 points a game respectively.  Yes, Andy also averages 15 points but he doesn't create offense, he flourishes in the garbage game and hits the occasional mid range jump shot.  Pargo and Zeller have the potential to fill those voids offensively but are too inconsistent to reliably count on them.

This leaves the other aspect of the game of basketball:  Defense.  The Cavs have actually slowly and surely improved their overall team defense.  After the first couple of weeks, Cleveland was the league's worst and giving up nearly 105 points a contest.  Now, a month-plus into the season, the Cavs are only giving up 100 a night and are ahead of six teams!

This is important.  After opening night, the team gave up 100+ in eight straight games.  Since then, over the past 10 games, the Cavs have only allowed 100+ in 3 games not including the double overtime against Portland which finished at 91 in regulation.  Their first nine games, they gave up 105.3 points per game.  Over the past 10, they have only given up 97.7 a game and would be lower if not for the double OT bonanza.  That average would put them near the halfway mark of NBA teams, tied with Boston, which is actually known for team defense.   

This is encouraging because when Waiters and especially Irving return, I think you'll start to see more W's for the Cavs.  Remember my line earlier regarding Cleveland fans being familiar with 4th quarter collapses?  That was in reference to the Browns who have been in every game and could easily be 6-6 right meow.  The Cavs are the same way.  They've only lost 4 of their 19 games by more than ten points.  Four losses came by three points or less (one possession games).  They are in every game in the fourth quarter and like the Browns, one of the youngest squads in the league.  Once healthy, look for this team to finally start gaining traction.

And like I mentioned earlier, they are in the worst division so it's not out of the question to be in playoff contention come February as I only see two teams currently in the Central actually making the playoffs.  Those two will most likely be Chicago and Indiana as the four and eight seeds.