Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
- Kings’ Joerger ‘all right’ after leaving game with dizzy spell - January 29, 2018
- Report: Winners’ share of All-Star Game upped to $100K - January 29, 2018
- Report: Parker could return to Bucks soon - January 29, 2018
From all indications, The Good Ship Cavalier is sailing along quite smoothly, thank you.
Its 115-112 victory against the were-streaking Chicago Bulls on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena boosted Cleveland’s record to 24-9 on the season.
Somehow, the Bulls had found a way to win seven consecutive games before being felled in what has become The Pit of Misery for opponents as the Cavaliers extended their homecourt winning skein to a (for the opposition) dirty dozen.
Those mathematically inclined will be quick to note the Cavaliers are playing at a blistering .727 pace through their first 33 games, or roughly 40 percent of their schedule. Cleveland is on pace to win 60 games this season.
However, that gaudy 24-9 record is only the fifth-best mark in the league, with Houston, Golden State, Boston and Toronto occupying even-higher rungs on the NBA ladder.
Here’s a question to ponder, though:
That makes five teams playing at a .700 pace, or better, and for argument’s sake, let’s also include the Spurs because, well, they’re the Spurs and they’re playing at a .667 clip, to make it six.
One of the hip terms being thrown around in this day and age is “upside,” which Webster’s defines as “an upward trend; a positive aspect; promise, potential.”
Going by that definition, especially the third of the triumvirate, of the aforementioned Super Six teams, barring trades, how do they stack up in regards to upside?
* Houston — The Rockets had their 14-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night by the visiting Lakers. The streak ending is no big deal. All streaks come to an end (except those tagged to the woeful Cleveland Browns, but that’s another story), but more importantly, the Rockets had perennial all-star guard Chris Paul leave the game in the fourth quarter with a strained left adductor. It also remains
to be seen if coach Mike D’Antoni’s system will ever translate to postseason success, which is has not, to this point.
* Golden State — The defending champions continue to steamroll the opposition, having won 10 consecutive games, the last six without former MVP Steph Curry (sprained right ankle). The Warriors are what they are — the unquestioned team to beat — but how much can they actually improve? Having won two of the last three NBA titles, the Warriors’ upside could be considered limited, perhaps more so now that Golden State has quietly become the team with the highest payroll in the league, assuming the position from Cleveland, which now stands second. While Cleveland majority owner Dan Gilbert has continuously been willing to spend whatever it takes, including taking on additional in-season salary, will Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob be willing to do the same should the need arise?
* Boston — The Celtics put together an impressive 16-game winning streak earlier this season with former Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving playing the role of Lead Dog, but Boston has come back to earth a bit since its win streak and is playing young guys heavy minutes and such players are prone to hit the wall, so to speak. And, unfortunately, Gordon Hayward, who suffered a gruesome left ankle injury five
minutes into the season-opening game against the Cavaliers at The Q, won’t be walking through that door to return to action this season.
* Toronto — Once again, the Raptors, led by their standout backcourt of Kyle Lowery and DeMar DeRozan, are having a fine regular season. However, that is nothing new for They the North. Toronto has put together a string of solid regular seasons. The problem has been, and remains, getting past Cleveland in the playoffs. What has changed to, well, change that?
* San Antonio — The Spurs deserve a ton of credit for putting together a 22-11 start, playing most of the season without star forward Kahwi Leonard for all but four games and point guard Tony Parker for all but 10. Though Leonard and Parker have returned to the lineup for coach Gregg Popovich, albeit on a limited basis, and forward LaMarcus Aldridge being seemingly rejuvenated (averaging 22.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), San Antonio, in the words of the immortal Popeye, is what it is — solid, fundamentally sound with a star in Leonard. But limited… well, upside.
* Cleveland — Which team can look forward to the addition of the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer from last season (Isaiah Thomas), a former league MVP who has yet to turn 30 (Derrick Rose) and a solid, athletic defensive-minded guard (Iman Shumpert)? Not to mention, big man Tristan Thompson still banging off the rust after missing six weeks with a strained calf, though doing so at the expense of the effective Channing Frye’s minutes is more than a bit curious, as AmicoHoops.net honcho Sam Amico has pointed out. The answer is, of course, the Cavaliers, who have now won 19 of their last 21 games after ending Chicago’s seven-game winning streak Thursday night.
The Cavaliers will renew their Tong War with Golden State in front of a national-television audience on Christmas Day at Oracle Arena, but the outcome of that contest, which is sure to be an emotional, competitive, even at times combative renewal of dislike, should be taken at nothing more than face value. A marquee matchup, without question. But in the big-picture aspect, it will be but a footnote months from now when money time comes.
Much more important is among the aforementioned Super Six, their respective cards have been pretty much shown in terms of their floors, as in their baseline performances without a huge deviation from the mean.
As has always been the case in the association, it’s not about where you are — it’s about where you can go… and specifically, where you will be come mid-April, then into June.
And in terms of upside, the team with perhaps the most room and best opportunity — the highest ceiling, if you will — hangs its hat in Northeast Ohio.