Did Cavs fix what wasn't broken?

Monday February 22nd, 2010

You wanted it, Cleveland. Now you got it.

The Cavaliers, who were riding a 13-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break, didn't fit the profile of a team needing a shakeup at the NBA trade deadline. But with LeBron James' impending free agency and the sting of last year's loss in the Eastern Conference finals ratcheting up the sense of urgency, the Cavs made the biggest splash, acquiring former All-Star Antawn Jamison from Washington.

The result: three straight defeats, their longest skid in two seasons.

And Jamison? He debuted with an 0-of-12 shooting night against the Bobcats before fouling out late in Sunday's five-point loss to the Magic in Orlando.

Still, there is no panic -- yet -- in the Forest City.

"We're going through a transition period right now," James said. "Coach is trying to figure out lineups, we're trying to figure out certain sets, but 'Tawn is going to help us out a lot for the rest of the season."

The slide doesn't come without repercussions, though. The Cavs' skid ended a seven-week reign atop the power rankings and opened the door for the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers to reclaim the top spot.

(All stats and records are through Feb. 21.)

NBA Power Rankings
1Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 2
Who needs Kobe? The Lakers ripped off four of five without him, winning by an average of 10.6 points, with only a one-point loss to Boston blemishing the record. Shannon Brown has picked up a lot of the slack -- with Kobe out, Brown's minutes have spiked to 37.8 per game. Brown put up 19 points in a win over Portland and 27 in a victory against Golden State.
2Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 1
Sunday's loss to the Magic didn't come without a silver lining. Specifically at center, where Shaquille O'Neal scored 20 points (on 9-of-10 shooting) to all but cancel out Dwight Howard's 22 points. In three matchups this season, Howard has averaged 17.3 points and 11.3 boards but has been counterbalanced by Shaq's 13.3/5.3 line.
3Utah Jazz
Last Week: 3
Utah Jazz (36-19)
The Jazz capped a 4-0 road trip with a 25-point comeback win in Portland on Sunday. Their seven straight road wins matches the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history. "It just shows that we're maturing a lot," Deron Williams said of the road success. "It's something we've been searching for the last couple of years, to win consistently on the road."
4Orlando Magic
Last Week: 4
Stan Van Gundy's pleas for Vince Carter to be in attack mode have been heeded. After a forgettable January (8.7 points), Carter is averaging 20.2 points in February, nearly doubling his field-goal percentage (28.4 to 50.7) and more than doubling his three-point percentage (22.4 to 52.8) from the previous month.
5Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 5
Is Carmelo Anthony the most clutch player in the league? Statistically speaking, yes. 'Melo's 20-foot jump shot to beat the Cavs last week was his 12th career game-winner that came in the final seven seconds. Anthony is 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) in attempts to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds of a game, the highest percentage since he entered the NBA in 2003.
6Boston Celtics
Last Week: 7
Just when you start to throw dirt on Boston's grave, the Celtics throw it right back. The C's 3-1 West Coast road trip -- which included a win over the Lakers and a 20-point victory at Portland -- was marred only by the injury problems plaguing Paul Pierce, who is shooting 34.8 percent in the last six games. "I think the thumb, the knee, and the foot, it may have caught up to him right now," coach Doc Rivers said. "We may have to look at giving him some rest."
7Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 8
Kevin Durant extended his streak of 25-plus point scoring performances to 28 and helped the Thunder extend their season-high winning streak to nine. Still, as much as Oklahoma City's offensive firepower gets the headlines, it's the D that deserves the credit. After finishing 27th in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage last season (47.5), the Thunder have improved to second best (43.7) this season.
8Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 10
Phoenix Suns (34-23)
The streaky Suns are in the throes of another one. Phoenix has won seven of its last nine, with six victories coming against playoff contenders (Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Denver, Memphis, Atlanta). A big difference between the good Suns and the bad version? They get leads and keep them. After blowing four leads of 10 points or more in January, Phoenix is 5-0 in February when it pulls out to a double-digit advantage.
9Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 12
Practice? We talkin' about practice? The Mavericks haven't had a full one since they acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood but have rattled off three straight wins with their new weapons in the lineup. The difference in D is the most noticeable change. In the three games entering the All-Star break, the Mavericks allowed point totals of 127, 117 and 117. But in its last three, Dallas allowed an average of 91 points.
10Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 6
The Hawks have a young and talented starting five and the NBA's best sub in Jamal Crawford. But is that enough? Atlanta went with a short bench (Crawford) in the second half against Phoenix and was blitzed by the Suns' reserves in the fourth quarter. Each of the Hawks' top six is averaging at least 27 minutes per game. The Hawk with the next most floor time? Maurice Evans (15.1 minutes per game).
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