After a difficult March, the Cleveland Cavaliers have rebounded a bit and won three straight home games to climb back into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics await them tomorrow night in a game that may very well decide who gets the first seed in the playoffs, but it’s not clear how important the Cavs believe that distinction is. It will be the third game in four nights for the Cavs, and they will travel to Boston for the matchup.
This time a week ago doubts were starting to creep in about the Cavs. Those fears haven’t completely subsided, of course, but the Cavs held serve at home in wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, and Orlando Magic. It’s not a murderer’s row, but wins are wins. They involved dominant quarters, and solid defensive stretches. They didn’t sustain it for consistent periods of time, but again, they showed signs of the life they displayed in February.
Tonight, it was big games from Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, and a bench boost from Kyle Korver that made the difference. The Cavs missed free throws and played space-y defense in the first half and found themselves down by two points going into the break. From there, the Cavs won the third quarter 43-20 and effectively ended the game. The Magic made it interesting enough in the 4th quarter that Irving had to re-enter the game, and James hung on a bit longer than was comfortable. James played 37 minutes, Irving 30.
Your Cleveland Cavaliers 122, the Orlando Magic 102.
Kyrie Irving was sensational and finished with 24 points on 15 shots. He handed out eight assists and didn’t turn it over once. He was in complete control of the offense when it was his turn, but didn’t force anything. Both he and James let Kevin Love go to work for extended periods of time, and Love was perhaps the best player for the Wine & Gold. He had 28 points on 18 shots, and brought down 11 rebounds in just 28 minutes. The Cavs went to him in the post and he got himself to the free throw line. He moved all around the three point line and hit shots from all over.
One big change that will hopefully continue as we move forward was Kyle Korver’s insertion into the game in the 3rd quarter. In the first half, Iman Shumpert was the first wing off the bench, and to say he played poorly would be an understatement. Korver came into the game in the third quarter and struck up an immediate connection with Irving; the Cavs were able to extend their lead with LeBron James on the bench.
I’m not sure the Cavs will win tomorrow night, but they’ve stabilized enough that a loss won’t make me fear for the playoffs. There’s a week to go in the regular season. The Cavs are in first place. We’ll see where this goes.