Two games with leads in the fourth quarter with under 4 minutes to go against two of the best teams in the league. You would not think this situation describes the Cleveland Cavaliers, but their recent play (they had won five out of six before these last two heartbreaking losses against the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers, respectively) gives a different impression of where the Cavs are in mid-December.
They say December is where playoff runs are made, and the Cavaliers are in good form right now. They have finally found their groove, and Mike Brown is beginning to figure out a rotation suitable to win.
Even with all the preseason hype, Cleveland still was not seen as to be on the level of teams like the Heat or the Indiana Pacers by most. But why not?
They have a superstar floor leader in Kyrie Irving, a former All-Star in Andrew Bynum, two of the league’s best rebounders in Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, and a coach that has been to the playoffs in every full season he has coached, as well as being one of the great defensive minds on any NBA bench, in Mike Brown (I understand Mike Brown was fired early into the 2012 season, but his track record would say otherwise as a head coach, I don’t care who he had on his teams). He boasts a 65% career winning percentage and has never failed to reach at least a Conference Semifinals. I’m not saying Brown is the best coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he is very capable.
But do Cleveland fans just want capable? No.
The city of Cleveland, who has been waiting for a major championship since 1964, when Jim Brown led the Cleveland Browns to a win at the NFL Championship at that time.
So what must the Cleveland Cavaliers do to finish games against teams like the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers?
More offense is much needed for the Cavaliers to pull away in some of these games. Kyrie and Dion can both score 25 a game, like they did against the Blazers, but who else can consistently put up complimentary numbers? I’m still waiting for Jarrett Jack to play like he did with the Golden State Warriors. He has been all but memorable thus far this season, averaging 10 points a game, the lowest since the 2010-11 season and the third lowest average in a season for his nine year career.
He is also sitting at his third lowest assist mark.
Obviously everyone is still waiting on Anthony Bennett to play like a number one pick.
More three-point threats would also aid to more potency for the Cleveland offensive. Seeing as Sergey Karasev will spend some time in Canton this year, C.J. Miles is the only long-range player the Cavaliers’ have. More three-point threats should give Kyrie Irving more room to operate, with the opposition having to honor the space of shooters.
One of my bigger concerns is Alonzo Gee’s offensive output. After averaging more than 10 points a game in his last two seasons, he is scoring less than four points a game, the second lowest average in his career. And its not that his percentages have dropped, he is just not shooting enough. This could be internal or external, and Im not sure which it is, but Mike Brown should find a better way to utilize Gee and his athleticism offensively.
Rebounding is another strength the Cavaliers possess, yet they were outdone on the glass in both games by a total of +13. With a rotation of Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao, as well as having the length of wing players like Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee and big athletic guards that the Cavs boast in Waiters, Irving, Jack, and Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland should rarely see a disadvantage on the boards.
The Cavalier’s also need to do a better job capitalizing on fast breaks and turnovers. The athleticism of this team should provide the ability to fast break a lot more than they do.
In reality, the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing very well right now and lost to two VERY tough teams in VERY close games. For a team still trying to find a rhythm, this is definitely progression.