Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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Some random Backscreens after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hold-on-for-dear-life 131-127 conquest of the Orlando Magic on Saturday night at Amway Arena…
* Much has been made about how Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue will adjust, tinker or remake his rotation once all of the Cavaliers are healthy.
With Tristan Thompson (calf) and Isaiah Thomas (hip) now back into the mix, Lue gave everyone a glimpse of what is perhaps come in the game against the Magic. And that does not include to pending returns of Derrick Rose (anke) and Iman Shumpert to the team.
Lue played an almost-unheard of, especially for the Cavaliers, 10 guys… in the first quarter.
That trend continued all game long as the 10 Cavaliers all played at least 13 minutes, with nine of the 10 logging 20 minutes or more.
* That having been said, the one guy who played only 13 minutes — Cedi Osman — was the first player off Lue’s bench in both the first and second half.
The 22-year-old rookie subbed in for Thomas and provided the Cavaliers with a burst of energy in both halves, something Lue said after the game he expects to continue going forward.
“I think so, though it could depend some on matchups,” Lue said when asked if Osman would continue to relieve Thomas, particularly as the 5-foot-9 point guard continues to work his way back to being at full strength. “Cedi was great. His energy, his effort, knowing how to play the game, attacking the basket, making plays.
“Cedi really gave us a lift and it’s good to see somebody fast running around the floor and playing the game with speed.”
Osman finished with six points, three rebounds and an assist in his 13 minutes on the floor, shooting 3-of-6 from the floor.
* While everyone who bleeds wine and gold is understandably excited about having Thomas back at it, Lue said he’s not been surprised in his performance.
In two games, Thomas has scored 36 points in 40 minutes of play, IT has made 13-of-25 of hits shots from the floor.
“We knew he was capable of doing that as long as he was healthy,” Lue said. “That’s the most important thing. That’s why we took our time, went through the process of making sure he’s 100 percent. Now it’s conditioning, timing. After that, we knew he could play.
* There have been some signs of rust for Thomas, though, including missing two layups the game’s opening minutes and committing five turnovers Saturday night, while making only 3-of-5 from the free-throw line. In his two games, Thomas, who shot 91 percent from the charity stripe a year ago for Boston and is a career 88 percent shooter from the line, has connected on only five of nine tries.
“Last year, I think I was second in the league in free throw percentage,” Thomas said. “I love free throws. I’m always going to figure out a way to knock ’em down. I’ve got to get my touch back a little bit. The ones I’ve missed, they’ve been short. I know that when their short I have no feel. I’ll adjust and fix it.”
* Dwyane Wade certainly knows how difficult it is to battle through injuries and attempt to come back, so his appreciation for what Thomas is certainly relevant.
“He’s just being IT, getting the ball and he shoots, he scores,” Wade, who had 16 points (connecting on 7-of-9 shots from the floor), 9 boards, 3 dimes and a steal in 25 minutes, said. “That’s Isaiah Thomas. We know he’s on a minutes restriction, so we’re trying as quick as possible to get him back into the game shape, trying to get him used to so many reps.
“There’s going to be times where it’s looks amazing, there’s going to be times where you’re going to see some rust. But we’re trying to fast-track this thing for him. He’s a scorer, man. He’s gives our team a totally different dimension.”
* LeBron James said the team adjusting to Thomas being added into the mix has not been nearly as difficult as many were led to believe.
“It’s an easier adjustment because we know what he’s here to bring to the table,” James said. “We need him to be aggressive and we need him to score. We need him to push the tempo. He’s going to facilitate a little bit, but myself and D-Wade, we do a great job of making sure guys get involved.”
* Thompson quietly has made it four solid games in a row. He put up nine points, making all four of his shots from the fields, and added seven rebounds in 20 minutes against the Magic.
In his last four games, Thompson, who missed six weeks because of a strained calf, has averaged 9.0 points and 7.8 boards in 21.4 minutes per game. Even more impressive, Thompson has shot 14-of-21 (.667 percent) from the floor during that stretch.
James believes a big part of Thompson’s resurgence has been the influx of Thomas into the Cleveland lineup in two of those games.
“What he opens up for Tristan, too, is huge because guards can’t do under his screens and it allows Double-T to get a great screen and so a lot of of times, it’s the bigs connecting (Thomas’) shot,” James said. “And now Double-T, what he does best is cleaning up glass, so that’s key for Double-T as well to have a point guard back at the helm that can put pressure on the defense.”
* Speaking of James, while he fell one assist shy of his 63rd career triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and six steals in 37 minutes, he did record his 24th double-double of the season.
In two games against the Magic this season, James has averaged 28.5 points, 11 boards and 10.5 dimes.
* It’s no secret, when the ball is hopping, the Cavaliers are a very difficult team to beat. Entering the game Saturday, Cleveland was 17-5 in games where it had 23 assists or more.
Make it 18-5.
Cleveland had 25 assists on 47 made field goals agains the Magic.
* The Cavaliers (26-13), who are now on pace for 55 wins this season, will hit stop No. 3 on their five-game road trip Monday night in Minneapolis as they take on the Timberwolves (25-16), who stand fourth in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Cleveland is just 1-5 on the road vs. the West, this season, though, the last three of those defeats coming when it was swept on a three-game trip at Golden State, Sacramento and Utah.
On the bright side, Cleveland was won six consecutive games in Minneapolis.