It's not as though the Cavs were particularly great when Kyrie Irving was healthy. After all, they were just 26-40 before Irving got injured in Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. But now that he's out for the foreseeable future, this team is probably a good deal worse. Lucky for them, they only have to face two of the NBA's top teams in their next two games: the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This should be fun.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (26-41) vs. Miami Heat (45-19)
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
To boo or not to boo?
Now that we've gotten past LeBron James' first few visits to the Q, the fan reaction is a bit different. The first time was obviously brutal and angry and everybody was booing the crap out of him. Now, it's more complicated. The boos aren't nearly as noticeable and there are even some cheers as fans try to "lure" him back to Cleveland. Remember that crazy kid who ran onto the court last year with a "Come Back LeBron" shirt? That was crazy. Please don't let that happen again, Quicken Loans security staff.
A few weeks ago, the Cavs honored Zydrunas Ilgauskas and retired his jersey. A lot was made of LeBron showing up to that ceremony in order to support his friend. It was nice to see LeBron be there for Big Z, but it was a little bit weird. I wasn't at the game but I'm pretty sure that there wasn't much of a fan reaction at all. Furthermore, he was like..right down on the court at halftime. There was a point when he was literally sitting on the Cavs' bench. That's weird, right? I had lots of memories and flashbacks and emotions and stuff that night, but that part of the evening was just bizarre. LeBron sitting on the Cavs bench again? Was it a flashback? Was it foreshadowing? Both?
There's no denying that LeBron James supplied some of the absolute greatest years in Cavaliers history. The way he left was soul-crushing and the past 4 years have now been terrible because of it. The ways that Cavs fans react to him and deal with each new story about his relationship with the team and the city are confusing. The easiest way for the Cavs to become contenders again is if LeBron James just comes back to sit on the Cavs' bench for real. But I know that that's a very unlikely thing to happen, so I desperately want the team to show that they are on the right path whether or not LeBron decides to ever play in Cleveland again. So far, I haven't seen it and that's disappointing. Fortunately, they still have some time to show some of that this offseason. We shall see.
Are the Cavs improving or not?
The Cavs have fallen to 5 games out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, which is not great. Of course, they aren't mathematically eliminated yet but...*looks at upcoming schedule* yeah, they're basically eliminated.
The Cavs can't afford to lose many more games this season and their next three come against the Heat, the Thunder, and the Rockets. And Kyrie Irving won't play in any of those games. Good luck!
The Cavs are 10-8 since firing Chris Grant and while that's not amazing or anything, it's better than what they were doing before David Griffin took over. Over those 18 games, Cleveland has an offensive rating of 103.6 (19th in NBA) and a defensive rating of 102.9 (10th in NBA). Again, nothing special. But consider the fact that leading up to Chris Grant's firing, the team had an offensive rating of 98.6 (25th) and a defensive rating of 105.5 (22nd). They've clearly gotten better. Now the hard part is determining exactly why they've gotten better. Is it simply the subtraction of Andrew Bynum? Did changing the GM really make a difference? Were the acquisitions of Spencer Hawes and Luol Deng impactful? Are the Cavs just playing an easier schedule? It's likely a combination of all of these factors. This offseason the Cavs' front office has a difficult task. They need to figure out what worked and what didn't work. They need to find out just what this team needs and decide if Mike Brown is their coach going forward. There are certainly some good things about this Cavs team...it's just hard to see them sometimes.
Who steps up for Kyrie?
It's been pretty well established that the Cavs won't have Kyrie for this game. So who steps up? Jarrett Jack will obviously take over a bigger role playing point guard with the first unit. It probably means more minutes for Matthew Dellavedova as well. But the guy that *really* needs to take his game to the next level is Dion Waiters. He's the one guy other than Kyrie who really has the ability to create off the dribble and attack the rim. For whatever reason, he seems to get up to play the Heat. If Cleveland wants to have a chance in this game, they'll need some nice contributions from Waiters.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction!
Cavs lose. Heat win. Blah blah blah. 107-96.