Dribbles: Cavs coming around? Feels like it now
Random day-after dribbles on the Cleveland Cavaliers' 121-104 win over the visiting Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
1. The ball moved, the players moved and everyone was reportedly all smiles in the locker room afterward. This was very similar to the Cavaliers' win Friday over the Indiana Pacers -- only better.
2. This time, coach Tyronn Lue stuck with a lineup that was working to end the game. Channing Frye is suddenly back in the rotation, J.R. Smith is suddenly shooting and Kevin Love even got the ball in the post. And a few of the passes even came from Isaiah Thomas.
3. So does it mean everyone should keep the faith about the Cavs? Well, maybe. Things are sure better than they were a week ago.
4. One of the best moments of the postgame locker room was described by Medina Gazette reporter Rick Noland. "Very happy Cavs locker room for a change tonight," Noland tweeted. "Highlight was IT's two young boys squeezing past media members to say hello to LeBron, then one of them grilling him as to why he wasn't at his b-day party Saturday."
5. By the way, for those who don't follow Rick, I'd highly recommend it. He's been covering the Cavs for 115 years (or at least it seems that way) and offers tons of insight/reaction. Take two seconds to give him a quick follow here.
6. James finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists -- and hey, only three turnovers. He also played point guard for the entire fourth quarter, helping turn what was a close game with 4:00 minutes left into a route.
7. LeBron to reporters: "For the most part throughout 48 minutes, this is one of the best games we've had as of late. Every game is something to build on. I think tonight was another positive note."
8. Don't look now, but the Cavs (29-19) have actually won a couple in a row. Both were home against lesser opponents. The true tests will come within the next couple of days. They get an angry Pistons team in Detroit on Tuesday, then immediately fly back home to face the Miami Heat the next night.
9. Love finished with 20 points, 11 boards and just had an all-around efficient night. He went 4-of-6 on 3-pointers and seemed to particularly enjoy himself out there. I'm not sure how many times I've written that about Love, but I know it hasn't been much. So that alone is news. The fact it came less than a week after the Drama Club Meeting shows how overblown that story may have been.
10. Again, this isn't to say everything is perfect with the Cavs. But it sure beats the alternative that we've seen lately.
11. Let's face it, with LeBron-led teams, every loss is magnified by 100. And every win makes you realize none of it is that big of a deal. If this team gets it figured out, yeah, everyone else in the East really needs to worry.
12. Thomas (14 points, seven assists) had his best stretch as a member of the Cavs in the third quarter. As I wrote Sunday, he deserves more time to fit it. Not much more, but some.
13. Smith was great. For the second straight game, he looked to SHOOT THE BALL. It's amazing we're even having that conversation about J.R., whose motto typically has been, "Have ball, shoot." He went 4-of-7 (all threes) for 15 points. I think Lue and the Cavs would actually like him to get to 10 shots (or more) each game. But you have to give him credit for being more aggressive lately.
14. I've written it before and I'll say it again -- bad things happen when Smith tries to be a facilitator. He is a hired gun. So please, Mr. Smith, gun away.
15. I've written this before and I'll write it again, too -- Frye needs to play. The Cavs improved to 18-1 when he is on the floor for at least 11 minutes. Most people don't view him as a major difference-maker. But that record doesn't lie. He may not be Michael Jordan, but Frye is a winner and there is no denying his impact on this year's Cavs.
16. Lue did the smart thing by starting Tristan Thompson and opening the door for more playing time for Frye. Kyle Korver (12 points) always plays better when Frye is in the game. When Frye plays, the Cavs have more than just Korver as a perimeter threat in reserve. Two perimeter threats are much more difficult to defend than one.
17. Jae Crowder (12 points) also played well off the bench and he should stay in that role. That way it's not as bothersome if he isn't making a major impact.
18. Interestingly, Iman Shumpert did not play despite being healthy and available. It won't be any easier moving forward, with Dwyane Wade expected to return Tuesday. The Cavs have been trying to trade Shumpert since July and that hasn't changed. But I'd forget about the potential George Hill trade with the Sacramento Kings -- and hang on to Frye.
19. By the way, is it any coincidence that Smith started playing well the second Shumpert returned from injury? They're friends, but the last thing J.R. wants is Shumpert taking his minutes or starting spot.
20. Finally, Pistons guard Avery Bradley is reportedly being made available before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. He is an excellent defender, a good teammate and a shooter. If I'm Cavs GM Koby Altman, I'm placing a call.