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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 119-115 victory over the visiting Washington Wizards.
1. Was this the Cavs’ best win of the season? It’s hard to say, LeBron James said. “It’s been like four seasons in one.”
2. But as James then indicated, labeling wins is a silly business. “I don’t even remember half of the games we’ve won,” he said. “I just know we’re playing some good ball.”
3. The latter part is all that matters. Make it 10 wins in 11 games, as the Cavs (49-30) now head to Philadelphia for a biggie against the 76ers on Friday. That won’t be easy. Far from it. The Cavs will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a determined opponent with something to prove. But more on that in a minute.
4. As for the win over the Wizards, the narrative sure seemed like it would turn into “Here we go again” with Tyronn Lue as coach. Lue returned from a nine-game absence. The Cavs won eight of them. They had won seven straight at home. Then Lue comes back and they lay an egg — or so a lot of people probably thought.
5. The Cavs built a 15-point lead in the first half. That quickly evaporated when they outdid themselves with some atrocious defense for portions of the third and fourth quarters. With 7:35 left in the game, the Wizards were up 17.
6. But as is so often the case, the game turned into a whole lot of LeBron at the perfect time. He finished with 33 points, 14 dazzling assists and nine crucial rebounds. He simply took over the fourth. He made every important basket, made every important pass and grabbed nearly every important rebound. Someday, even Cavs fans who weren’t at the game will want to tell everyone they were there.
7. Of course, it was rookie Cedi Osman who made the game’s biggest steal, with the Cavs clinging to a 116-115 lead and time winding down. Wizards guard John Wall left his feet and looked to pass, and Osman turned into Cedi On The Spot. The Cavs rookie then knocked down a pair of free throws to seal it. “I’m glad I was able to get the steal,” he told the crowd, simply.
8. Jeff Green had a strong showing with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and Kevin Love scored 16. Before the game, Lue said Green will be the starter moving forward. Interesting and perhaps peculiar choice — but one that was perhaps because of Green’s sudden burst of defensive versatility.
9. Kyle Korver (13 points) also did some nice things in just his second game back. The best was a big 3-pointer right in front of Washington’s bench to tie it late. The shot came off a drive and dish from James. “He gets that look,” Korver said of LeBron at winning time.
10. James was more specific when talking of the comeback. “There’s time on the clock. I don’t have a quit bone in me,” he said. “When I’m on the floor, I’ve got to try to make plays no matter the score.”
11. Also, LeBron on his recent play: “I’ve just been in a groove — a long, long groove. I plan on staying (in it).”
12. It should be noted that this one came without injured point guards George Hill (ankle) and Jose Calderon (hamstring). Osman hasn’t played a whole lot lately, but got the start. Good call by Lue.
13. Rodney Hood added 11 points, Jordan Clarkson scored 10 in reserve, and Osman finished with eight. Larry Nance Jr. grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds in 18 minutes. He needs to be on the floor more. It’s quite obvious the Cavs’ coaching staff hasn’t figured out how best to use him. They need to need to do it before the playoffs. He brings energy and athleticism, and always plays to win.
14. As an interesting aside, Tristan Thompson was on the floor for just 10 minutes. His stat line was zeroes across the board, as he didn’t attempt a field goal or free throw, or grab a rebound. This has been a season to forget for Thompson.
15. You can’t always blame Lue, but the defense looked better under Larry Drew. Whether Lue is to responsible or not, it’s his job to get the defense in order. It’s definitely something to watch moving forward.
16. For the Wizards (42-37), Wall was amazing with 28 points and 14 assists. After missing some time with a bum knee, he appears to be as fast and efficient as ever.
17. Wizards coach Scott Brooks on LeBron: “Like I said before the game, I’ll say it after the game and probably five years from now I’ll say the same thing. He’s the best player in the league and he does that every night. You don’t get to see players like him often.”
18. OK, now for the Sixers. They are still without star center Joel Embiid, but that hasn’t seemed to matter much. Rookie swingman Ben Simmons has been playing better than ever and the Sixers are young, athletic and extremely confident. This is going to be a tough, tough matchup for the Cavs on the road. If they lose, the Sixers will overtake the third seed in the East, dropping the Cavs to fourth.
19. But it’s one of those message games — and as we’ve seen so often, these are the type of nights on which James often loves to shine. As we learned again Thursday, with LeBron, all things are possible.