Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who can kick back, relax, get in some practice and wait a week to play another game.
1. This team is puzzling. In a good way. I think. Although I’m not sure.
2. Can you tell the Cavs have me feeling confused? I’m guessing I’m not alone. It’s probably true of most fans, media members, front office staffers, coaches, martians … you name it. If you follow the NBA, you probably don’t know what to make of the defending champs.
3. With that in mind, how about we start here: The Cavs won their first-round series in a sweep. That’s right, it was 4-0, over the Indiana Pacers. The Cavs even won the final two games on the road, just like they did last season vs. Detroit.
4. So why does it sometimes feel like the series lasted seven games?
5. I don’t know, you don’t know, and let’s just admit we agree and try to move on together.
6. Or maybe it’s because every game was an absolute adventure in basketball madness. In Game 1, Pacers swingman CJ Miles missed a wide-open shot at the buzzer that would’ve won it. In Game 2, the Cavs blew a lead and had to scrap for a six-point win. In Game 3, they overcame a 26-point deficit, and in Game 4, it took a 28-footer from (who else?) LeBron James to save the day. In that closeout game, the Cavs allowed the Pacers to overcome a 13-point deficit.
7. Wait a minute. Did I say something about moving on? I think I did. I’m really trying. But when it comes to this team, I’ve just been spending so much time scratching my head.
8. James has mostly been magnificent, playing like a champion and making every important shot (except maybe for a few missed free throws). Sometimes, the Cavs look like a one-man team — which is startling to me, considering how GM David Griffin has worked to put together a deep and experienced roster.
9. Tristan Thompson has also been mostly himself, battling for loose balls and chasing down offensive rebounds to deflate the opponent. He still plays with energy at both ends. (And most fans are still nervous every time the ball winds up in his hands.)
10. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have not been good in the previous two games. I’m not sure what the problem is, but they haven’t displayed the mental edge it takes to win a title. That is fairly stunning, considering they both played such important roles in last year’s championship run.
11. But I don’t think I’m being harsh when I say the Cavs need Irving and Love to pull it together. The postseason is no place for inconsistency. If you’re really an All-Star, this is where you prove it. There are no excuses, there’s no tip-toeing around that truth.
12. Deron Williams deserve praise for his play in reserve. After a rocky start, he has settled in and added a calming, veteran presence. So far in the playoffs, he’s looked better next to James than Irving. In many ways, that’s great. In other ways, not so much.
13. For the most part, you have to like how Tyronn Lue has managed things. He’s not afraid to bench guys when they deserve it. So far, he’s sat Irving, Love, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson for long stretches — or at least longer stretches than they usually expect. The end result was a first-round sweep, so again, you can’t really complain.
14. Kyle Korver and Channing Frye have also performed their roles well. Both were crucial in the epic Game 3 rally. But here’s the thing: They’re role players. They were signed to fill in, give the stars a rest. Instead, Irving and Love have been all over the place and the older veterans are playing some important “bail-out” minutes.
15. I’ll never understand why Derrick Williams can’t get a chance. The Cavs brought him here with hopes that he would provide effort, energy and athleticism. He immediately offered all of those things, and more. Now, he can’t get off the bench, even when things are starting to seem dire. I just don’t get it.
16. So, there you have it. An entire column of what sounds like venting about a team that delivered a championship parade to Cleveland less than a year ago, and a team that’s coming off a first-round sweep. The good news is, the Cavs can still get better before they face either Milwaukee or Toronto on Monday, May 1, at The Q. They know it, you know it, we all know it.