Cavaliers Aiming to Keep Resiliency at Top of Their List
Maybe the Cavaliers can ring in the New Year with their biggest shocker of the season.
That would take place Tuesday night, or New Year's Eve, at defending champion Toronto. Hey, why not?
The Cavs (10-22) have won four of five. It's been their best streak since they captured four of nine and showed lots of spunk to start the season.
Granted, the schedule has been a little more kind lately. Last week, the Cavs were gifted three home games against likely non-playoff opponents in Charlotte, Memphis and Atlanta. They also beat a Minnesota team Saturday without its top two players in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Still, this looks like a different squad that lost eight straight from late November to mid-December. Not by much ... but the positive signs are there.
"This team is fighting," Cavs center Tristan Thompson told reporters. "We've won four out of the last five games, so something is going in the right direction.”
Against Minnesota, rookie guard Darius Garland scored 18 points, as did his second-year backcourt partner Collin Sexton.
When it comes to putting up points, Sexton has been Mr. Consistent and leads the team in scoring. Garland has been a little more inconsistent, and for the Cavs, that's OK. Both players are still finding their way in the NBA.
But Thompson speaks the truth. The Cavs are starting to show some grit again, and maybe even starting to believe they can actually win.
Not bad for a team that's in the first year of starting over a second time. It is facing a lot -- from Garland and fellow rookie Kevin Porter Jr. receiving plenty of minutes, to first-time NBA coach John Beilein navigating more games and fewer practices than he ever experienced in the NCAA.
There's also the constant trade rumors surrounding Kevin Love and Thompson. Plus, the Cavs just sent Jordan Clarkson to Utah and brought in Dante Exum.
One way to overcome all the madness? Well, for starters, with the vigor that Thompson mentioned.
Also, defense isn't going to win a championship for the Cavs, but it will keep them in games. Beilein praised that aspect in Saturday's 94-88 road victory over the Timberwolves. Thompson tends to lead the way in that department.
“He was relentless in rebounding offensively, but particularly defensively," Beilein said Saturday. "He protected the rim. He was the heart and soul of our team in many ways."
Everyone else has been fairly inconsistent at that end, and that is the polite version. But no surprise there. That is typically how it goes with a younger team that's adapting to a first-year coach.
Bottom line: The Cavaliers aren't going to the Finals, or even the playoffs. Still, they do want to practice good habits, and play hard and play smart. At least, they would like to do those things more often than not.
And when they do, they would like to be rewarded with a win. Lately, that has been the case.