This was a real weird game between the Cavaliers and Raptors. But in the end, Cleveland came away with a narrow 102-100 victory over Toronto. It was weird and I doubt many people expected the Cavs to win this game but, hey that's how it works.
No.... No. the games certainly aren't played on paper.
On paper, the Cavaliers probably don't look like the team that beats Golden State and Phoenix on the road, loses it's superstar point guard, and rallies to nail biting defeats against the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder before beating two teams playing for a whole lot right now. That's the NBA though, and that is how things go. Beating a playoff hopeful on an 8 game win streak is nice. Beating a 3 seed feels just a little bit better.
The Cavaliers effort has been tremendous as of late, and even though the Raptors came out looking disinterested, I am taking nothing away from the guys in Wine and Gold. Again, that is the NBA, you take what is in front of you.
The Cavs scored 59 in the first half, despite bseing 24th in offensive efficiency (a number that has spiked recently, they were 26th prior to the Knicks game). At one point they led by 21, before a frantic Raptor comeback was held off. On the second to last play, Luol Deng was held, somewhat egregiously, but the Cavs should still have had a second player to get the ball to.
Pain and hilarity.
As the bald spotted Rasheed Wallace famously said: "Ball Don't Lie".
The Raptors suffered a similar fate on their In-Bounds, with point guard Grievous Vasquez falling down.
It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. And at this point, that is incredibly important. All season, we have seen the Cavs chuck far too many close games. At least 8 off the top of my head. Shrinking in vital moments and making bonehead mistakes. They did it tonight too, but they won. Wins and losses are easily measured when looking at lottery balls and dreaming of college stars, but it becomes a bit more ambiguous when measuring them against confidence and will. Basketball, in my opinion, is primarily a confidence sport. Trusting the process and believing in the outcome are paramount to execution, and the team that does that usually wins. Again, that is my opinion, I'm sure some disagree, but that is the beautiful thing about this game, there are seemingly infinite ways to do everything, and no set "right way". So, I will choose to like this way. The winning way. The way that builds confidence in a young roster and it's embattled coach.
Things To Like
- Dion Waiters Dion Waiters Dion WAITERS. This blog is no stranger to my love for Dion. I have not attempted to be overly rational about it, and I have never apologized for it. I have acknowledged his shortcomings while (somewhat foolishly at times) steadfastly believing in his potential. This is that potential.
I'm not saying he has arrived, that would be foolish. Young players have peaks and valleys, but since January he has been a different player. His energy has been leaving an impact on games even in poor efforts, and in what I believe is a sign that he is ready to take a big step forward next year he is averaging 24 points and 6+ assists a game on 45+% shooting with Kyrie Irving out. This March is easily his career best in scoring, and shooting efficiency, which is great. The better part is that it's also his best month as a distributor for his teammates. He is defending well, and accepting the responsibility and challenge of learning from his mistakes. The future, at least for now, is looking INCREDIBLY bright.
- Tristan Thompson brought it tonight. With the ever important Jonas Microscope on top of him, he responded to a run of poor play with 15 points, 13 rebounds and a block. He was 9/10 from the free throw line. For his part, Jonas was a tire fire. 2-6 shooting for 4 points, and 3 rebounds. He was benched most of the game which was probably good given his shocking -27 in only 18 minutes of play. Sometimes that number is misleading, but moving to small ball or Chuck Hayes in Jonas' stead almost saved the game for Toronto. Tristan was good. He can be good. He should be good. He works incredibly hard and is athletic. He always seems to plateau or even regress a little bit before taking a step forward. I am hoping this is another one of those times.
- Mike Brown has kept this team together, gotten a maximum effort, and in my opinion improved this teams play and it has shown lately. The team has fought through bad fits, malcontents, and injuries, and is beating good teams even when they're shorthanded. The offense has evolved as the players have grown and pieces such as Andrew Bynum were removed for more ideal and versatile pairings like Spencer Hawes. Dion Waiters, potentially the most important key to the Cavs success, be it for what he becomes or what star he can help land in a trade, has grown and is showing a great shift in his attitude. Anthony Bennett too was showing major strides before an injury shut him down. Moves that weren't popular like shuffling Dion to the bench and Bennett not heading to the D League ultimately payed off. Dion has gotten better and better since the move, and Bennett responded with promising play.
Brown is an easy punching bag, and I still have no idea if he keeps his job given that we don't even know who the GM will be. Those things said, he inherited a roster of tanking players who didn't know how to defend, didn't fit well together, and didn't want to play hard. Chris Grant and David Griffin helped correct the second one, but Mike Brown has gotten a pretty good handle on the other two. I have no idea what the future will hold for him, and I won't pretend he doesn't have rough spots, but I won't lie to you and say he was handed flawless circumstances.
What's Not to Like?
Nothing for us. We won again, against another tough opponent. For this dude though, a lot since he no longer has a TV:
On to the next one. The Cavaliers play in Detroit, and it would be nice to get another win. Winning is fun, and fun to talk and write about. Lottery balls are not.