Dribbles: Issues for Cavs? It's all hot air
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers' 93-87 win over the host Nuggets on Tuesday.
1. Second game in two nights. Thin air. No Kyrie Irving. A Nuggets team that isn't always as bad as we think. Yet all night, it seemed like the Cavs were in complete control.
2. This probably wasn't LeBron James' best game of the season -- but it was up there. James is turning 31 years old. He scored 34 points. He threw down some serious dunks. He made a couple of cool steals. He looked as energized as any other time this season. It's worth noting James did all this on the last stop out West. The Cavs finished the trip 2-2.
3. Did the Cavs look like world-beaters on their Western swing? Nah. Not really. But even when they're less-than-stellar, they still look plenty capable of beating anyone in a seven-game series. For now, that's good enough.
4. I know. Some fans want the Cavs to look like champions in late December. Some fans want them to dominate like the Warriors have on their way to a 29-1 start. But I wonder if those fans remember the 61- and 66-win seasons of the first LeBron era. I wonder if those fans remember how those seasons ended.
5. Last year, the Cavs started 19-20. They reached the Finals without Kevin Love. They played the firat game with Irving on one good knee, then five more Finals games without him at all. Read: It's important to remain focused on the biggest of all goals.
6. Anyway, I've written and said all that before, and I'm sure I will again -- the message being to appreciate this team. I sure do. The Cavs don't always play exactly how I'd like them to play. They're not perfect on every possession. They sometimes do silly things I haven't seen since my old rec-league games vs. The Beer Keg Lounge Lizards.
7. But the Cavs are 21-9 and clearly, the rest of the East must go through Cleveland. Frankly, I don't think it can, and frankly, neither do you. As for the West, I'll say this: Sorry, but still not afraid. The Cavs finished last regular season 34-3 when healthy. They're better this year.
8. OK, back to the Nuggets game. Irving rested on the second night of a back-to-back. That makes sense at this time of year. He says he doesn't want to do it again. But I won't blame Irving or the Cavs if it happens. Once things get easier (and they likely will), there's no harm in letting guys get their legs ready for the biggies in April, May and June.
9. Love scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds. I'd like to see Love get his scoring back up. The one way he can do that is to shoot the ball better. He struggled on this trip and finished 4-of-16 from the floor Tuesday. That included 0-of-5 on 3-pointers. Again, plenty of time to rediscover the touch. So again, not overly worried.
10. Overall, the Cavs were just 4-of-22 on threes. Don't know if it was the four-games-in-five nights or what, but this must change. Thankfully, the Cavs are off until Saturday (at home vs. the Magic). They could use the rest and some time to get their jumpers back in order.
11. Cavs coach David Blatt on the win: "We wanted and felt that we needed to finish this trip strong, to get a couple of wins, to go into the new year with good momentum and a good feeling."
12. LeBron had fun with the whole concept of Denver's thin air. Nobody seemed all that winded, except for maybe the final 35 seconds. "When the air is thick, it kind of holds me back a little bit when I jump,” James joked.
13. Former Cavs update: Mike Miller went scoreless in seven minutes and J.J. Hickson never got off the bench for the Nuggets (12-20). Miller visited with his former Cavs teammates before tipoff. Same goes for Cavs center Timofey Mozgov and his ex-Nuggets teammates. Nuggets coach Mike Malone, who spent five years as a Cavs assistant, also said hello to LeBron and some of the guys.
14. Have a safe and happy New Year. Thank you for visiting the website and continuing to read. I hope to make it even better in 2016.