A victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder is nice. A blowout win against the Charlotte Bobcats is great. But you know what's even better? A three game win streak.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (15-34) vs. Orlando Magic (14-35)
When? 7:30 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
Tickets? Cleveland Cavaliers tickets
The Cavaliers have been playing much better of late. Their recent stretch of success has given them the 17th best offense in the league. That's a mighty big improvement from even a couple of weeks ago when they were hanging out around the 25th best offense. Tonight, they have another game that they should win. A part of this rebuilding process is learning how to take care of business. That means beating teams that you are expected to beat. They did that with an emphatic beatdown of the Bobcats on Wednesday, but it needs to continue tonight.
Kyrie Irving is obviously the engine of this team. Having a player like Kyrie means that you can compete on virtually any night. But the thing that has the Cavaliers actually winning games is the fact that Kyrie is getting some help. That help is coming from Tristan Thompson and the second unit. Thompson has been an absolute monster since Anderson Varejao got hurt and he has surprisingly become a go-to option on offense. If the Cavs need an easy bucket, they can typically just give it to Tristan and let him use his impressive faceup game to score an easy hook shot.
The bench unit was once the absolute worst thing ever and made me want to punch a baby every time the second quarter came around. But ever since The Jon Leuer Trade, it's been one of the team's strengths. Marreese Speights is still playing like a man possessed and Shaun Livingston has been a major upgrade over Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo. Wayne Ellington has added some much needed shooting off the bench. For the first time in a long time, it appears as though the Cavaliers have a relatively competent rotation of NBA players.
Cleveland's opponent tonight is what Byron Scott likes to call a "wounded animal." The Magic started the season with impressive fight and resiliency after the trade of Dwight Howard. But then they fell apart and became the team that everybody expected them to be. It's kind of like how the Cavs started the 2010-11 season looking like a real basketball team. But then they lost a billion games in a row. The Magic have had a slew of injuries and it's unclear whether or not Arron Afflalo or JJ Redick will play in tonight's game. Regardless of who plays, the Cavs need to take control from the opening tip and beat this team at home.
My respect for Redick's shooting ability (and his overall game, really) is well documented and he can be a handful if he's able to play tonight. But the one player that the Cavs really need to keep an eye on is Nikola Vucevic. The second-year big man is having a fine season (averaging a double-double) and could provide some headaches for Tyler Zeller. Vucevic has done a nice job rebounding this year and the Cavaliers will need to keep him off the offensive glass so that he doesn't cause too many problems.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
Ultimately, I expect the Cavaliers to win. We've gotten to the point where I actually expect this Cavs team to beat a crappy team at home. This season is all about development, progress, and maturation. The best way to show that the progress is tangible is to smoke the Magic at home tonight. Cavs win, 106-94.