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A complete team effort, Cavs beat Memphis

Dec 21, 2014 -- 9:03pm

By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Associated Press

CLEVELAND – LeBron James preaches selflessness.

Playing against a team with the second best record in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers were everything but selfish as the Cavs knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies 105-91.

“We played a really good game,” James said of the victory. “The way we shared the ball, and we had a low turnover game, that’s a good ingredient for being successful. 34 assists is huge and it was a great game for us.”

Cleveland came into the game ranked ninth in the league at just over 22 assists per game, but dished out the 34 on 46 made shots to help shoot 60 percent from the floor.

James, who finished the game with 25 points, gave out six of his 11 assists in the first quarter alone and the Cavs helped on nine of their first 10 made shots.

Point guard Kyrie Irving led the distribution, tying a career-high with 12 assists.

“I just have to stay aggressive, whether it’s making plays for my teammates or making plays for myself,” he said. “Guys were knocking down shots. They wanted to hold us under 100 points and we kind of took it upon ourselves to stay aggressive and keep attacking in transition and playing our basketball.”

The noisiest assist of the night came midway through the fourth quarter, when James was streaking down the left sideline, pointed up, and Dion Waiters threw a perfect alley-oop pass for an electrifying dunk that extended the lead to nine and amplified the crowd for the remainder of the contest.

Waiters, after sitting the entire second half just two days prior, proved impactful scoring 21 points off the bench in 26 minutes.

“I was able to knock shots down,” Waiters said. “We moved the ball tremendous tonight and we have to play like that all the time. Making the right play, playing defense and playing together.

“We are a dangerous team if we can do that.”

New reserve Shawn Marion contributed as well, matching a season-high with 11 points.

“I thought our rotation off the bench did a lot better,” head coach David Blatt added on his team’s complete performance. “It has done it several games. Give a lot of credit to (Waiters) and (Marion) and (Matthew Dellavedova) and to Tristan (Thompson) who came in with good energy and good defensive effort and pretty good poise on offense taking care of the basketball.
“In my opinion that second wave held their ground and they even built the lead for us a little bit which was great.”

This is just the Cavs third win against Western Conference opponents this season, and the first against a team who currently holds an above .500 winning percentage. Six of their ten losses overall have come to the West, and only two of those teams hold winning records as well.

“Every experience is a teacher for us,” James added. “We have to learn from our mistakes.”
 

Quote of the Night

Blatt was asked if the absence of Zach Randolph (Knee) and Tony Allen (Eye) at all took away from the Cavs victory, or was this a game that shows Cleveland can measure up with the best in the league.

“No, it doesn’t tell me that and it doesn’t take away from that. Every game, seemingly, and certainly at this stage, guys are missing. Atlanta came in here the other night without their starting point guard (Jeff Teague) and they beat the hell out of us.”
 

Tweet of the Night

When the Cavaliers lost to Atlanta in blowout fashion last week, LeBron James compared the Hawks’ ball movement to that of the San Antonio Spurs.

With the aforementioned 34 assists and noticeably improved interior passing, the Cavs emulated San Antonio in their own right:
 

Photo of the Night

Announced by USA basketball, point guard Kyrie Irving was presented with the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year award prior to today’s game. Irving led team USA to a FIBA World Championship gold medal averaging 12.1 points accompanied by 2.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and two steals in just 24 minutes per game.

“Just to be part of the lineage of guys that have come before me and won this award and be a part of that team,” Irving said afterwards on what the award means to him. “The adversity that we faced as a group of guys coming together, most people doubted us, we said that regardless of Spain or France and all of these other veteran countries we were going to win. We came in there and used that as motivation and I was a part of that team and that’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Pictured is Irving playing for Team USA this past summer: 


 

Photo/Getty 

James, who won the award in 2012, commented on his point guards’ accomplishment.

“It’s a huge (honor)” James said. “The opportunity to represent your country and do what you love to do, playing the game of basketball. It’s great. I watched pretty much every game that they played this past summer and Kyrie was definitely the reason why they brought it home. Obviously the other guys as well (Kenneth) Faried played great as well but, Kyrie was a starter on the team, Coach K knew why he was a starter and they just rode the hot hand.

“Its great for him to have an achievement like that, he keeps racking them up.”
 

Video of the Night

Quincy Pondexter pestered James with tight defense for the length of the court, until James called for the clear out, creating space for a thunderous throw down dunk towards the end of the first half. 

 

 

 

Miller shoots 7-of-8, 21 points

Dec 20, 2014 -- 1:02am

Photo/Getty 

CLEVELAND – Mike Miller did exactly what he was supposed to in his first start for the Cleveland Cavaliers – shoot.

After missing the better part of two weeks with a concussion, and having battled chronic injuries all season long, head coach David Blatt announced that Miller, who played in only13 games this season, would get the nod in place of Shawn Marion for the Cavs in their matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.

Right out of the gate, Miller was locked, loaded and ready to go.

“One word, great,” Blatt said post game to summarize the performance.

“Mike, for his whole career has been a floor spacer. I thought he played right, as he always does, and I thought the shots that he took were good looks. They were Mike Miller shots, and he made them.”

He hit his first two three-point shots and scored six of the teams’ first 10 points. The 14-year veteran finished the first half with 15 points en route to a 21-point performance where all eight of the shots he took came from beyond the arc, hitting seven.

“I was just happy to help and be a part of it,” Miller said modestly post-game. “It’s just the opportunity. I came here for one thing, and that’s to win games. For me to be able to be out there to help is all I care about.”

Nearing the end of the second quarter, Miller appeared to tweak his left ankle and struggled to apply any pressure to it. Instead of exiting the game, during a Nets’ free-throw attempt, he tied his shoe a little tighter and finished out the half.

“I wasn’t coming out of the game,” he joked. “I finally got the opportunity to play again. Probably be a little sore tomorrow, but it will be alright.”

No other player in the Cavs locker room knows what Miller is capable of on the court better than LeBron James. Teammates as members of the Miami Heat, James showed a genuine level of trust and chemistry with Miller.

“I played with him for a long time,” James said. “I know what he is about. I know how professional he is and I know he can be successful for this team and he showed that tonight. When you have a guy that can shoot the ball like that, with me drawing so much attention, it allows guys like that to get open.

“One thing I’ve always told Mike is no matter where the defender is, he is never close enough. He is never close enough to him that he can’t get his shot off and if he is he’ll foul him. (Miller’s) ability to shoot the ball is unbelievable and I’m happy to be a teammate of his.”

Before this rejuvenating performance, Miller had scored just 19 points on the season and was averaging just 1.3 points per game. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Blatt credited the hot shooting and “gut feeling” to keep him on the floor during crunch time. And although he didn’t take a shot during the fourth quarter—the previous damage, and threat, was more than enough.

“Just his presence on the floor gives us space,” James added. “Even if he doesn’t make a shot at all because he is capable of hitting four or five in a row, whatever the case may be.

“When (Miller) is out on the floor, he gives us another weapon.”

Cavs bounce back, beat Nets 95-91

Dec 20, 2014 -- 12:20am

By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

CLEVELAND – Throughout the first quarter, it appeared as the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up right where they left off -- and that's not a compliment. 

Trailing the Brooklyn Nets by nine early in the game, Cleveland, yet again, displayed an inability to play consistent or aggressive defense allowing the Nets to score 33 points on 67 percent shooting.

Then it clicked.

Over the last 36 minutes, Brooklyn scored just 58 points as the Cavaliers caused 13 turnovers to grit out a 95-91 victory – their 15th of the season.

“We just tried to be aggressive,” LeBron James said of the defensive turn around. “We were very passive to start the game and allowed them to get in the comfort zone and they made some shots. The last three quarters we just tried to put more pressure on the ball, get some deflections, and get some stops.

“We were able to accomplish that.”

Brooklyn finished the game shooting 47 percent, but just 9-of-24 from beyond the arc and attempted 17 less free throws than the Cavs.

“I thought we played three real good quarters of defense,” head coach David Blatt commented. “A 16-point quarter. A 22-point quarter. A 20-point quarter. Certainly that kind of defense is going to help you win games. Especially tight games like this one.”

Offensively, the spark, the jolt, the on-switch that energized Cleveland, didn’t come from James, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving, but instead Mike Miller, in his first game back from a concussion, scored 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from three-point range.

“I don’t even want to think about,” Blatt said on how his team would have faired without Miller’s play. “He came out ready, came out blazing, and certainly picked us up tonight.”

As Miller picked the team up, it was James in the fourth quarter who went on a personal 7-0 run over the course of 1:39 that provided the final push towards victory.

“You’re playing a bit of the percentages and you certainly want the ball in your best players’ hands to make a decision,” Blatt added about James’ fourth quarter performance. “I thought overall at the end of the game (James) made some big plays,
offensively and defensively.”

For James to get open in the fourth quarter, or for Miller to crack the starting rotation, other players were forced to sacrifice playing time and individual statistics for the greater good. Shawn Marion came off the bench after starting 21 games thus far, and Anderson Varejao started, but played just 17 minutes.

Love and Irving were just a combined 7-of-28 from the floor with 22 points.

“Our team has to be selfless in order for us to win and accomplish the ultimate goal.” James said. “Every individual, it needs to be from everybody on this team to worry about the team first, team second and team third and beyond, before ‘I.’ (Marion) is one of those guys, (Miller) is one of those guys, James Jones is one of those guys and we all need to be those guys in order for us to succeed.

“That’s the only way it can happen.”
 

Quote of the Night

“Sometimes in a game you just have a feel for things and you go with your gut. That’s what we did and fortunately it paid off.”

- Head coach David Blatt when questioned on why Dion Waiters was not on the floor in the second half with the other reserves.
 

 Tweet of the Night

Less than a week after publically congratulating Kobe Bryant for passing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, LeBron James is starting to make his way up the totem pole.

James moved into 23rd place all-time after passing Charles Barkley’s mark of 23,757 career points scored. Next up, Allen Iverson, who scored 24,368 in 14 seasons.
 

 

Photo(s) of the Night

Tonight’s in-game promotion was dedicated to supporting the launch of Irving’s first signature shoe – the Kyrie 1. People in attendance were able to purchase the shoe, in advance of the Dec. 23 official release date, and have their pair delivered to their seat during the game.

Fans lined up as soon as The Q opened to be the first to get their hands on a pair.
 

Here’s a closer look at the shoe:  

Photo/Nike

Video of the Night

As often as the Cavs connect on outlet passes for layups, every now and then it goes awry – as shown when a Dion Waiters’ pass trailed a little behind James’ and hit him right in the face.

Can you say #SCNotTop10?
 

 

 

Cavs lose by 29 at home. Embarrassed?

Dec 18, 2014 -- 12:04am

By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Do you consider losing by 29-points at home – to a team you beat by 33 just a month ago – an embarrassing defeat?

Apparently, it depends on who you ask.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt used that exact word – “embarrassing" – to describe his team's 127-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Did he see any ‘fight’ in his team? No.”

Were there any positive takeaways from the loss? He had a “real hard time to see any.”

Blatt was embarrassed and, frankly, in no mood to talk about it.

LeBron James, on the other hand, although visibly agitated, was not embarrassed by a 29-point loss in December.

“I’m embarrassed to lose in the Finals,” James said.

“We got some work to do tomorrow. I don’t view it as ‘we’ll get them next time.’ We’ve got some work to do and we need to figure out why we keep having so many breakdowns.”

The Cavs had a quality start to the game, scoring 34 first quarter points and extending a 12-point margin midway through the second-quarter. Yet, slowly but surely, the Hawks, led by Shelvin Mack’s 24-point performance, chipped away, stole momentum and collected a lead of their own.

“I think the pride of defending one-on-one and guarding your man is something we have to learn,” James added. “Rely on help (defense) second."

Mack alone was six-of-six on three-point shots and collectively Atlanta shot a scorching 57 percent (16-of-28) from distance.

“They had five or six uncontested threes,” James noted. “We can’t accept that. If guys are going to make shots, they got to make shots over us, contested. We can’t be satisfied with that. We can’t be satisfied with the open looks that they got.”

James finished the game with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting in just 29 minutes.

Going into the game, Blatt said a key to victory would be stopping Kyle Korver, a three-point marksman, from getting open looks – and they did that. Korver shot just one-of-three from the floor for four points. However, seven other Hawks players scored in double digits as the team shot 65 percent overall from the floor.

Atlanta out-rebounded the Cavs by seven, had 12 more assists, five more blocks and one fewer turnover, in a game that – to put it nicely – was, indeed, embarrassing.

“(Atlanta) gets you in uncomfortable positions,” James said of the Hawks’ quick ball movement.

“But you need to be in uncomfortable positions, that’s the only way to succeed.”
 

Quote of the Night

David Blatt didn’t start his post game press conference by taking questions, instead he had an opening statement:

“Guys, I would like to start by just making a statement. I don’t want to get up and walk out of here, that’s not fair to (the media). But I really don’t have too much to say. I will say this – that was embarrassing how we played. I apologize to all the good fans that came out here, as they always do. Really just a poor poor performance.

“And I don’t have a whole lot else to say, I’m not going to just walk out of here, but that’s pretty much my feeling.”
 

Tweet(s) of the Night

The Cavs defensive struggles are well documented so far this season, but surrendering 65 points in the first half, to an Atlanta team ranked 14th in the league at 102 points per game, was a season high. 

And it wasn’t defense he was working on after the game, but Kyrie Irving was not involved in post-game media availability. Instead, he was on the court practicing shots from all areas of the floor, including the free throw line. Irving was scoreless in just 12 second-half minutes.

 

Photo of the Night

After missing today’s shootaround with flu-like symptoms, Kevin Love got off to a hot start, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists in the first quarter alone.

Pictured are Love and James celebrating a full court pass that resulted in a lay-up and an “and-one” free throw opportunity.

However he finished the game with just 13 points with 10 boards and six assists before exiting early with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

Photo/Getty

Video of the Night

A bit of humility in defeat for Cleveland as the Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha took an early seat at the end of the first quarter, making room for James to assist a three-point shot from Matthew Dellavedova. 

 

 

LeBron: "Defensively we took a step back"

Dec 17, 2014 -- 11:02pm

By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James spoke to the media following the Cleveland Cavaliers' 127-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The following is a transcript of that interview:

(Questions, asked by media members, may be edited for content and length)

How damaging was the three-point shooting in terms of taking (the Cavs) out of the game emotionally?

Very damaging. The three ball is the equalizer in our game, but the way they got them, they had five or six uncontested threes, and we cant accept that. If guys are going to make shots they got to make shots over us, contested. We can’t be satisfied with that. We can’t be satisfied with the open looks that they got.

Was tonight a setback overall?

Yeah, defensively for sure. I think offensively we played pretty well. We moved the ball, we didn’t make as many shots as they did obviously, but defensively we took a step back.

What isn’t happening defensively during poor performances like this?

Every game is its own. You can’t really bank on other games, you have to play each game as it’s own. Communication. The breakdown. The pride. I think the pride of defending one-on-one and guarding your man is something that we have to learn. Rely on help second. That plays a part into it as well.

Are you embarrassed by this loss?

No. Do you only ask negative questions?

No, those are (Blatt’s) words. He used that term in the press conference.

No I’m embarrassed to lose in The Finals.

Are tonight’s defensive struggles the same as during the loss against New Orleans?

I think that they are some of the same. Ryan Anderson – Code Red. We let him get too many open looks and tonight we allowed (Atlanta) to get too many open looks. You can’t do that. This is a well coached team that we played. They move the ball, remind me of playing San Antonio. That system, that move the ball and get you in uncomfortable positions, but you need to be in uncomfortable positions – that’s they only way to succeed.

It appeared that you and Kyrie Irving had a ‘we’ll get them next time exchange,’ is that how you view this loss?

No. I don’t view it that way. We got some work to do tomorrow. I don’t view it as ‘we’ll get them next time,’ we got some work to do and we need to figure out why we keep having so many breakdowns.

Three-points short of passing Charles Barkley for 23rd on the NBA All-time scoring list, do you prepare differently for the next game?

That absolutely doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t care about me individually, all I care about is our team success. I have my individual success when our team succeeds, that’s all that matters.

Is one-on-one defense all about pride?

No, it’s not all about pride. It is a big part of it, though. Saying that my man, I am going to play as hard as I can and if he scores on me, he scores on me, I can live with that. We know that better offense beats better defense any day. But at the same time you take the challenge, individually you know who you are guarding. You take the challenge and rely on help second, and make sure you are that more dynamic.

Irving is taking practice shots after the game, what is your take on that?

He is a gym rat we all know that first of all. Any time I went back on the court to shoot I felt I was either out of rhythm or struggling and just wanted to see the ball go in. Do I know what his mindset is? I am not sure. But that’s how I felt.
 

 

 

Early lead carries Cavs to victory, 97-88 over Charlotte

Dec 16, 2014 -- 12:00am

By Tony Cartagena | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

CLEVELAND – A fan-made sign was shown repeatedly on ‘the humungotron’ during the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-88 victory over the Charlotte Hornets – it read, “team work makes the dream work.”

Apparently the Cavs got that message, loud and clear.

Hitting seven of their first nine shots, Cleveland jumped out to a 21-0 lead. But more impressively, the Cavaliers assisted on their first 11 made field goals and finished with 28 assists on 38 made shots, nearly 75 percent efficiency.

LeBron James led the way finishing with a game high 27 points and tying his season high with 13 assists.

“That’s just part of my game,” he said afterwards. “We are a very good team when everyone feels involved. So it starts with me getting everyone and still being aggressive. It’s good ingredients for our team.”

Kevin Love also made a large contribution, scoring 22 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. He got involved with the ball movement as well, connecting with James multiple times on full-court outlet passes that created easy layups – and one signature dunk.

“It’s something that you have to get used to,” James said of the high velocity outlet pass. “It’s a unique gift that he has that not too many guys in our league have. Myself and Dwyane Wade connected on a lot in Miami as well, but (Wade) is more of a baseball passer, (Love) can go straight chest pass or over the head with two hands.

“I just go out and go get it. With me being a wide receiver in my day, I can go get them all, so it’s pretty cool to have.”

Head coach David Blatt made note of what their impact and chemistry means to the success of the team.

“Those are two great players,” Blatt commented. “It means a lot, because they are lead players for the Cavaliers, and when they are engaged and performing the way that they were, I think it lifts everybody up.”

Cleveland did let the Hornets sneak back into the game as a 21-point lead quickly dwindled to just a single digit margin in the third quarter. However, players and coaches alike noted that holding on for the win – and snapping a two-game losing streak – was far and away the most important stat.

“Keep playing the game,” James said. “As fast as you can go on a 21-0 run, they can cut the lead down to two in the third quarter, so you just continue to work the habits and share the ball and defend.

“Play the game until there are zeros on the clock in the fourth,”

Kyrie Irving, who was faced with the tough task of defending Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker (24 points) thought holding onto the lead showed grit and determination.

“NBA teams are going to make a run,” he said. “They made their run and we were prepared for it. They gave us their best shot and we withstood it. It was one of those games where it’s a good or bad thing to get that kind of lead especiall in the first quarter.

"Obviously hard to withstand it, but we got the win today and that's all that matters." 

Irving finished the game with 16 points and five assists in 40 minutes.

Quote of the Night

Coach Blatt was asked a question about Kevin Love and LeBron James, and as any coach would, he jumped to the defense of the third member of his big three, Irving – pointing out his contribution and chemistry.

“It seems that Kyrie and Kevin play pretty good together, because (Love) had about 500,000 points and rebounds in the game and he was playing with Kyrie, so he must be doing okay. They seem to be getting along.”

Tweet of the Night

Normally fans don’t boo with 5:33 left to play in the first quarter, but when the Hornets’ Al Jefferson hit a short jump shot to end the 21-0 streak, The Q crowd was a bit disappointed that there wouldn’t be a shutout.

The Cavs held the Hornets scoreless for so long, media outlets from all over started to take notice:

 

 

Photo of the Night

A truly priceless photo, while resting during the fourth quarter, James took a seat in front of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and billionaire friend Warren Buffett. 

Photo/Getty

Video of the Night

James commented on his friendship with Buffett following the game: 

 

 

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