On December 4th the Denver Nuggets entered Quicken Loans Arena having won 7 in a row, and were turned away in defeat. Tonight, the Nuggets hosted the Cavaliers in Denver, winners of 6 of their previous seven, against a Cavs team with 4 road wins. Defeated again. So in an unpredictable season of ups and downs for the Cavs team there is at least one thing you can pretty handily bet on: They're gonna beat the Nuggets.
The Nuggets played multiple roles tonight, first Huckleberry as the Cavs bombed away during a 42 point second quarter. Then cocoon as the Cavs learned to hold onto the lead they fought so hard to build and to make the plays necessary to come away with a victory. The latter can be attributed to a lot of things, but the effect of Luol Deng is the one that should shine in the forefront.
With about three minutes to go, and clinging to an 8 point lead, the Cavs did what they do best: something stupid. First, a somewhat infuriating Nate Robinson corner three. In late games the Cavs are better than anyone at giving up threes. I don't know this for sure, but my colon is pretty scientifically inclined and tells me that this happens a whole whole lot. Then they decided to push the limits even further when Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving had their lazy inbounds exchange stolen for an easy layup.
3 minutes to go, in Denver, for the team that had two road wins just over a week ago. Enter Luol Deng:
Luol Deng is pleading with the kids to do smart stuff, slow it down, be patient.
Luol Deng is pleading with the kids to do smart stuff, slow it down, be patient.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 18, 2014
Deng began taking over huddles, and Kyrie Irving began taking over possessions. Spring in a tiny bit of luck, a monster offensive rebound for Tristan Thompson, some defense, and CJ Miles free throws, and the Cavaliers now stand at 15-25 and have earned road win number 5. As the man Rich Homie Dion*** would say:
*** "Rich Homie Dion " is the brain child of Rich Homie Quan fans Sam Vecenie of FearTheSword.com and Robbie Kalland of AtlantaHawks.com. Though Ryan Mourton is the curator of all things related to Dion Waiters fandom, he does not, and will not accept any credit or financial liabilities for this moniker.
Things to like:
- POINTS! In the last 6 games, including the 80 point stinker in Sacramento, the Cavaliers are averaging 106.1 points per game. As a season number, that would put the Cavs third in the NBA. For the season, they are averaging 96.7 points per game, good for 22nd.
- Momentum! The Cavs have won 4 out of their last 6, and return to the Q for a five game home stand in which they host Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and New Orleans. A strong record in this 10 game stretch could catapult them up the Eastern Conference standings.
- Confidence! Basketball has a lot to do with confidence, and sealing out two close wins and gaining the knowledge and confidence to believe that you will make the critical plays late in close games is invaluable. We have watched a team that expects to lose in the clutch for a few years, but now they're learning to lock up such important victories.
- All Hands on Deck! No one really had a bad game tonight. Every player chipped in with a big play that was crucial in different parts of the game, and the Cavs were able to achieve victory AND keep Luol Deng right at the 30 minute restriction suggested by the Cavaliers medical staff.
Things NOT to like:
- The Cavs won 3 of 5 on a road trip and have a chance to come home and make some real progress, whats not to like?
The Cavs have two days to rest up and get some more practice in before facing the Dallas Mavericks at 1:00 PM on Monday. Good night now: