The Cavs returned to Cleveland Saturday for a short two-game homestand, and they dominated home court like they have all season. The Cavs blew out Orlando 104-79 on Saturday and were in control all game Monday against Toronto, winning 122-100.
The Wine & Gold are 15-1 at home. There’s no doubt when they play at home they’re tough for anybody to beat. Coincidentally, they start a six-game road trip on Wednesday against the only team that beat them at the Q, the Washington Wizards.
There are a couple of intriguing factors about this game. For one, the Wizards didn’t just win in Cleveland, they blew the Cavs out. The final score in their first meeting on December 1, was 97-85 in favor of the Wizards, but the game was never close, and the final score is a bit misleading.
So the Cavs will have revenge on their minds. Another factor that plays into this game is that Kyrie Irving is the leading vote-getter for Eastern Conference point guards for the 2016 All-Star Game, even though he has only played six games.
Wizards’ point guard John Wall is without a doubt having a better season, and is arguably the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Wall was brilliant in the win over the Cavs in December, scoring 35 points, dishing out ten assists, and grabbing five steals. He is averaging 19.5 points and just under ten assists per game on the season.
So from Wall’s standpoint, he may want to prove that he is the best point guard in the conference, as we are just over a month away from the All-Star Game. Last season, Wall made the statement that he and teammate Bradley Beal were the best starting backcourt in the NBA. There’s no argument now that the “Splash Brothers,” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the best PG/SG combo in the league and the Raptors’ duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is not far behind, but just for Wall to make that statement shows that he does care about “being the best.”
From Irving’s standpoint, he may want to show that the fans are correct in voting him as starting All-Star point guard. He also may want to show the Wizards that the game is going to go quite differently when he’s on the court, compared to the last time the two teams met. He is fresh off of his best game of the season, scoring 25 points against Toronto, and will look to get better and better with each game, as he rebounds from his injury.
The bottom line for both teams will be to get the win, but basketball is as much of an individual-driven sport as any, and the two star point guards will be fun to watch on Wednesday.
The Wizards are 14-16, out of the playoff picture at the moment, but for as dominant as the Cavs have been at home, they are not invincible on the road.
The last time the Cavs went on the road, they played four games in five nights, going 2-2. This upcoming road trip, the Cavs will play six games in ten nights, with no back-to-back games until the final game in Houston. Part of the last road trip that played a factor was that Irving rested two of the four games. Irving said he hoped last Tuesday in Denver would be the last game he sits out for the rest of the season, and he is expected to play every game on this road trip.
The trip starts in D.C., then the Cavs make pit stops in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.
The first part of that trip should be a breeze, but those last three games in Texas will be very interesting to watch. The Mavericks, Spurs, and Rockets are all playoff teams at the moment, and of course the Spurs game on January 14th, will be the Cavs’ best test of the season other than the Christmas Day matchup with Golden State.
The fact that the Cavs-Spurs game will be the fifth stop on the road trip may lead to the Cavs being fatigued for that game, so if Cleveland can pull out a win against the Spurs, who are unbeaten at home, it would put the rest of the league on notice that the Cavs are right up there with the two best teams in the league right now.
The Cavs are 8-8 away from Quicken Loans Arena this season. There’s no doubt some of that is due to injuries, but some of the road losses they have suffered are head-scratching, at the least.
Of their eight road losses, three of them came to teams that would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The Cavs have fallen to the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime, New Orleans Pelicans in overtime, and were blown out by the Portland Trail Blazers. Something to remember is that all three of those games they were without Kyrie.
When Irving has been on the court this season, the Cavs are 5-1.
Another player that may get overlooked compared to the Big 3 is Tristan Thompson. Since taking over as starting center a week ago in Phoenix, the Cavs are 4-0 with Thompson in the starting lineup.
We’ll take that one step further, and go back to the three games Thompson started at center when Timofey Mozgov was injured in November. The Cavs went 2-1 in that stretch, losing only to the Raptors in Toronto. So when Thompson starts, the Cavs are 6-1.
Coming into the season, many fans, analysts, and talking heads expressed frustration that Thompson received a huge five-year contract worth 82 million dollars. “All he does is come off the bench and rebound.” They would say.
Does that $16 mil. per year sound better when you consider that he is now starting center, posting a double-double on a nightly basis?
So let’s see how long it is before the Cavs lose with Thompson as their starting center. Could be a nice, long streak to follow.
The next ten days will tell us a lot about the fortitude of this team. The injuries can no longer be the main excuse that is used if the team doesn’t produce. There are no back-to-back games until the final night of the trip in Houston, so they can’t say anyone caught them on a bad night. If the Cavs are the team we know they are capable of given their extreme talent, they should go 5-1 on this trip. But it’s the NBA. You never know.