The Cavs have been playing some pretty okay basketball (I guess), and I have some notes about it:
- Three wins. The Cavs now have three wins against healthy, elite teams. This win against the Warriors is one of them. The first win against the Clippers in LA was the second. Kyrie's win against the Trailblazer's last month was the third. I don't count the early season win against the Hawks in this because Horford wasn't playing like himself yet, and the Hawks just weren't the Hawks at that point. If you want to count the Thunder win a month ago where the Thunder were still figuring things out, you can go ahead. That would bring the number up to four.
- That is to say the Cavs have been extremely lucky this season in catching other elite teams at a point of weakness. They beat Memphis without Zach Randolph. They beat the Wizards (twice) without Nene one time and Bradley Beal another time. They beat the Raptors (twice) without DeMar DeRozen. They beat the Bulls (twice) with the smattering of injuries they always have. They beat the Clippers (twice), and I count one of those, but J.J. Redick was missing the second.
- For me, that's what makes last night's win against the Warriors so important. It's what makes the upcoming Hell schedule so important. The Cavs will not be getting off easy in the playoffs. They'll be getting teams' best punches, and it's about time this team proves itself against best punches. They're good enough to punch back.
- I'm not going to guess how many wins the Cavs will get during this difficult stretch. I'm not sure if it's even that important as long as they're playing just under .500 or better. The important thing is learning to compete against other elite teams. With the easy schedule the Cavs had since LeBron James came back, they could mostly do whatever they wanted to do every night. That's about to change, but I am almost absurdly confident that this team will adjust.
- I guess while I'm on the subject of adjusting, how about Kevin Love since All-Star break? Not only has he played light-years better, but he seems happier and more engaged. Maybe those two things go hand and hand. I don't know. This is one case where I care less about the process and more about the results. Love is playing well, and he's smiling. And God, does he have a beautiful smile, doesn't he?
- Throughout the season, I worried about this Cavs team keeping Love happy even if doing so didn't optimize the team's potential. I never thought the Cavs could win a title this year (it's just so hard for first year teams to do that), and they cannot lose him to free agency. My thought was always make him happy and win enough that he sees hope in the future, and he'll stay.
- It's like when you're first dating someone. You don't let that person see the real you because she will leave you forever if you do. You pretend to be a different person and then let the real you come out slowly so before she notices, she's in love with a completely different person than she was first dating, but you guys are married for five years and have two kids so she's trapped.
- Just get Love to sign a max extension, and then the Cavs can play the optimal way. That was my theory anyway, and it's probably a good idea I am not in charge of any basketball teams because Love seems pretty happy today despite not placating him. They seem to have made some concessions -- putting him in the post and elbow more often lately -- but even those were probably good for the team as a whole. If that's enough to keep Love happy despite a dropping usage rate, then I'm happy, too.
- Speaking of happy, if you told me J.R. Smith before the season was going to be on the Cavs AND he was going to be the dude buying into what Blatt's doing the most, I wouldn't have believed you. No way. At all. He's done everything Blatt has asked of him, and he's done it happily. If the Cavs DO win a title, JR Smith having a title to his name is up there with Ron Artest having a title to his name. Not quite as mind-boggling, but it's up there.
- (Let's hope Kyrie is going to be okay. I'm writing this before his MRI goes down.)
- Guys, I'm excited. If this tough stretch breaks the right way, I'm going to be drunk with fan power.
What things have you kids been seeing?