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Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fairly easy 123-109 road win over the New York Knicks on Monday.
1. Well, thank heavens it’s over. This one resembled a preseason scrimmage where both teams were just hoping to avoid injury. But any ugliness was the result of the Knicks. The Cavs barely needed to try, and still won.
2. And for the Cavs (50-31), the victory did mean something — as in a fourth straight Central Division title.
3. Those who say division titles mean nothing are only partially correct. When you think about where the Cavs were five years ago, or where they where in 2010-11, when they lost 26 straight … well, yes. Four straight division titles is kind of cool.
4. And then there’s LeBron James. He became the first player in LEAGUE HISTORY to win 10 straight division titles. Six came with the Cavs, four with the Miami Heat.
5. Think about that. Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. All played on teams that dominated their decades. Yet not one led his team to 10 straight division titles.
6. What does it mean in the big picture? Again, not a whole lot. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget and appreciate just how good this Cleveland team has been, how much it has owned the Eastern Conference.
7. Another example? The Cavs are likely to finish with the fourth seed in the East. (They can do no worse, though they will need a basketball miracle to catch Philadelphia at No. 3.) But think about this — everyone still predicts that the Cavs will emerge from the East and play for another championship.
8. The point? Division titles show just how dominant LeBron and the Cavs have been in this era. And that’s pretty doggone dominant.
9. LeBron on the Central title: “I’ve kind of like been a hypocrite because I’m always moving and trying to figure out how we can be better the next day or whatever the case. So it’s always hard for me to be like, OK, another division crown after everything that’s gone on with our team and our ballclub this year, but it’s a pretty cool thing.”
10. Of course, reaching the Finals three straight years counts for a lot, too. But all anyone thinks about is championships, and if you don’t get one, to so many fans, the season has been an utter failure.
11. Maybe it’s too hard to see it any other way when you get so close every year. But I bet about 25 other teams, at least, would be thrilled to experience the sort of run the Cavs have had lately.
12. Anyway, enough about that. All that matters is the Cavs have one regular-season game left, against these very Knicks (28-53), at home, on Wednesday. Then the real thing begins … again.
13. We will know when the Cavs open the playoffs after that game Wednesday night. Last year, Game 1 of the first round was Sunday afternoon at home against the Indiana Pacers. I suspect Game 1 of the first round this year will be Sunday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers.
14. Except this Pacers team, now locked into the fifth seed, is much-improved after unloading Paul George in the offseason. Honest.
15. As for the actual game, Kevin Love and LeBron were both excellent. Love scored a game-high 28 points and knocked down six of his 13 3-point attempts. James went for 26 points and 11 assists while barely even trying.
16. The game also marked the returns of George Hill and Jose Calderon (they combined for eight points), giving each some run before the playoffs. That’s good, because they’ll be needed.
17. Rodney Hood (sore Achilles) will also be needed, but sat out as a precautionary. He could play Wednesday.
18. J.R. Smith did a nice job with 16 points and a surprising seven rebounds. Smith has been on such a wild rollercoaster ride this season it is hard to know what to expect. I’d give him about all of one playoff game to perform well. He doesn’t need to play as well as he did Monday, but he can’t be a no-show. It’s bad for team morale when he totally disappears. But he proved Monday he may be getting into a postseason mode of his own.
19. Larry Nance Jr. (10 points, six boards) also played his best game since returning from a hamstring injury a couple weeks ago. Nance shot out of a cannon during his first few games with the Cavs following an early February trade — but has been so-so recently. It makes you wonder if the hamstring is still bugging him. Or maybe it’s the fact that out-of-shape and ineffective Tristan Thompson is getting some of his minutes.
20. Most are topics for another day, as we get ready to wrap up the season and head for the time of year the Cavs and their fans have been waiting for. Finally, it is almost here.
21. Oh, and will LeBron suit up Wednesday for the season-finale and appear in all 82 games for the first time in his career? “I’m healthy, so I’m playing,” he said.
22. By the way, with a win Wednesday, the Cavs will finish with the same record as they had last season. When Kyrie Irving was on the team.