CLEVELAND - Best Win of the Season
The Cavaliers recorded what was assuredly their most impressive victory of the season on Wednesday night. Shorthanded and coming off a game the previous night in which Kyrie Irving played 45 minutes, the Cavaliers managed to defeat the title contending Oklahoma City Thunder on their own court. There was really no way to see it coming. Despite the fact that the Cavs entered the game on a three game skid, they had actually performed valiantly in all of those losses. The inconsistent effort that plagued the team throughout the course of much the season has for whatever reason disappeared with the firing of Chris Grant. It’s still unknown when any of the trio of Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and CJ Miles will return, but if the Cavaliers can tread water until their return then playoffs are still a possibility. The eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks have been free falling down the Eastern Conference standings courtesy of a 1-9 record in their last ten games. I’ve been proclaiming for weeks in this column how hard the month of March is for the Cavaliers though and so it’s hard to say the playoffs are anything more than a hope and a prayer, but at least there’s still hope.
The early returns on Spencer Hawes are rather promising. He’s provided a much needed boost to a depleted Cavaliers offense and has been the Cavs most consistent three point threat in his four games here. He is also a good fit next to any of the Cavaliers frontcourt players even fellow seven footer Tyler Zeller. Perhaps most encouraging is the biggest question mark with Hawes, his defense, has actually been solid. Hawes is only 26 years old and if he continues to show himself to be a good fit then I imagine it’s likely the Cavaliers push heavily to keep him here during his impending summer free agency.
Jarrett Jack, it’s your time
Jarrett Jack has had an awful season by his standards and it’s not really clear as to why. It always seemed likely that he was going to regress a little from his previous season in Golden State, but the fall off in his play has been staggering. It’s not like Jack is entering his late 30s; he entered this season at the age of 29. It would seem that he’s even let his struggles shooting effect his confidence as he’s consistently hesitated to take open shots as of late. There is no way Jack’s as bad as he’s shown thus far. Looking at his career stats, he’s never performed this poorly before. There is no injury that explains his poor play either and so it’s hard not to feel like he’s just an epic slump. Snapping out of a slump requires a string of consistently good play, and he at least showed signs of perhaps getting there against Oklahoma City. He had his best game of the year, scoring a season high 21 points on only 14 shots. Without Jack the Cavs don’t get that victory. So, kudos to you Jarrett Jack.
Stat of the Week
Hawes recently moved into the starting lineup which means that even when the Cavs injured players return I imagine we’ll see Irving-Jack-Deng-Tristan-Hawes to lead off games. The early returns of that lineup have been promising and the idea of backing it up with Waiters, Miles, and Varejao off the bench gets me a little excited. Thus far the Cavs new starting lineup has scored 112.8 points per 100 possessions while on the court together while only giving up 102.8 points per 100 possessions. That’s a net difference of +10 which is huge. It’s a small sample size, about 77 minutes worth, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
Kyrie Irving Might Leave?
There’s been a lot of noise in the national media about Kyrie Irving potentially forcing his way out of Cleveland this summer by not signing an extension with the Cavs. The truth, which they include while simultaneously glossing over, is that Irving would be sacrificing a minimum of $10 million in the long run to do so and it’s possibly a bit more. If the Cavaliers decide to offer Kyrie Irving their “Designated Player” slot, something each team in the NBA is allowed to offer one rookie on their team coming off his initial deal, then he’s going to accept it. I’d bet my cat on it.
Before I write here again the Cavaliers will have faced off against the Jazz, Grizzlies, and Spurs. The Jazz are one of the worst teams in the league. Even with their current injury bug, the Cavs should come away victors, especially considering the game is at home. The other two matchups are a little more up in the air. The Cavs defeated the Grizzlies once this season, but they were missing Mike Conley who is their second best player and the Cavs also had Anderson Varejao to guard one of Memphis’ two very effective big men. Varejao shut down Zach Randolph late in that game which was a major factor
in the Cavs getting a win and he probably won’t be suiting up this time around. The Grizzlies slow style suits the Cavs because it doesn’t often take advantage of the Cavs poor transition defense. Also, much of their defense is predicated on clogging the paint with their two bigs, but Hawes should be able to pull either Gasol or Randolph away from the basket and open up room for the Cavaliers guards. I think the Cavs can come out of Memphis with a victory. The Spurs on the other hand are a well-oiled machine and even if they rest some of their stars should be able to handle this Cavaliers squad. 2-1 over this stretch of games is fine by me.