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01-16-2010, 10:05 AM
Despite schedule, Cavs atop conference
At halfway mark, Brown says team is a little further along than he had hoped

By George M. Thomas
Beacon Journal sports writer

Published on Saturday, Jan 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES: With half of the season in the books, the Cavaliers sit pretty in the NBA's Eastern Conference.

The Cavs (30-11) have the best record in the conference and are second in the league behind the Los Angeles Lakers, who were 30-9 going into Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

And the worst of the Cavs' season will be behind them after tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Cavs will have played 24 of their first 42 games on the road.

Playing 23 of their final 30 games at Quicken Loans Arena could prove to be a significant advantage as they work toward gaining homecourt advantage for the playoffs.

Coach Mike Brown prefers not to look that far ahead and said there is still much work to be done. That the Cavs are 2-2 on their current West Coast road trip is evidence to back Brown's contention.

The balancing act is a Catch-22 for Brown. He wants his team to play well, but he doesn't want the players to peak before they get to the playoffs.

''We're close, but not where I'd like to be in my mind,'' Brown said of the Cavs' progress.

Problems continue on both ends of the court. Defensively, Brown laments that the Cavs remain susceptible to the pick-and-roll.

That was evident against the Denver Nuggets, who played without superstar Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets were able to get 44 points in the paint, where the Cavs have been giving up fewer than 35 per game.

Then there's the issue of turnovers, which has been prevalent during the road trip. In the loss to the Nuggets, the Cavs had 19 turnovers. In the 97-96 loss Thursday night to the Utah Jazz at the buzzer, the Cavs committed 23 turnovers that led to 27 points for the Jazz. The Cavs are the seventh-worst team in the NBA in turnovers, averaging 14 per game.

''Those are the things that you hope you can correct or eliminate,'' Brown said.

There are positives on defense. The Cavs lead the NBA in field-goal percentage allowed at 43 percent and are third in points allowed per game with a little more than 100. Offensively, the Cavs are 12th in the league in points scored and are tied for second with an average differential of 6.5 points per game.

Still, there have been times when the Cavs have struggled on offense, lacking flow and failing to move the ball consistently. Some of that can be attributed to a lack of practices because of a grueling first-half schedule and a some of it can be related to a reliance on LeBron James to dig the team out of holes.

Still, it has been a successful first half, despite a couple of disappointing losses. Brown expected some bumps in the road while trying to integrate Shaquille O'Neal, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon into the rotation and getting longtime starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas acclimated to coming off the bench.

''I didn't feel we'd be sitting where we are so early,'' he said. ''I felt we had a chance to get there eventually. I knew we were going to take it across the chin. I just felt if we were able to survive that, we'd have a pretty good chance.''

James put things a bit more directly.

''I'm not surprised by our record,'' he said. ''I'm surprised more by the talk that our team wasn't good. Everybody thought the addition of Shaq wasn't going to work out and things like that. We exceeded expectations, so far.''

And the Cavs have put themselves in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference. Last season, the Cavs gunned for the top seed in the East and the No. 1 overall playoff spot.
There's less talk about that this season, but it doesn't mean the Cavs are oblivious to what's laid out before them. With just 17 road games left, they might be able to get fat on some home cooking and gain that advantage again.

General Manager Danny Ferry and his assistants have assembled a team that might be better suited for a long playoff run, provided it maintains its health.

The Cavs have the ability to play small when necessary and to match up with teams that play bigger, such as the Orlando Magic and Lakers. That versatility might be the key.

''I think we have a chance to get both those things [top seed in the East and overall],'' Brown said. ''I like this team going into the playoffs because of our versatility. You don't know what your record is going to be at the end of the year, but you do know you have some pieces to work with.''

James knows the reality of playing in the NBA.

''It's the halfway point,'' he said. ''It's a long season. It can turn around tomorrow. You can go on a five-game losing streak, or a six-game losing streak or you can continue to play well, so we just want to be consistent and keep doing what we've been doing.''

Looking back
Former Cavs coach John Lucas said in a report on AOL Fanhouse that the Cavs tanked their season to draft James in the summer of 2003, a situation that had lingering effects on his career.
''The Cleveland Cavaliers situation really beat me up,'' said Lucas, who was suspended by the NBA for the first two games of the 2002-03 season because of illegally bringing in James for a voluntary workout with Cavs players in May 2002, late in James' junior year of high school. ''I didn't know until you get into the inner loop, after you take the job, what their real mission is. . . . So I was really beat up from the Cleveland situation and so it took me this long to be back [in the NBA].''


23 of the last 30 at home...that is awesome.
Especially with a new PF named Jamison at the 4.

Team will have plenty of practice time as well to clean up bad habits and focus on new offensive plays.

This is going to be a fun ride into June.

Lord Mar
01-16-2010, 10:33 AM
23 of our last 30 at home??? Damn that's sweet.

EDIT - Yea, especially with a new PF named Jamison :)

01-16-2010, 10:35 AM
Uh, we play 16 of our last 30 at home. But as of right now, we'll play 7 more home games than road games in the final 41 games. Still nice.

Lord Mar
01-16-2010, 10:36 AM
Uh, we play 16 of our last 30 at home. But as of right now, we'll play 7 more home games than road games in the final 41 games. Still nice.

Hack journalism at its finest. Now I know why I hesitate to read anything Cavs related if it's not written by Windhorst.

01-16-2010, 10:52 AM
Uh, we play 16 of our last 30 at home. But as of right now, we'll play 7 more home games than road games in the final 41 games. Still nice.

Good catch, 23 of 30 did sound wrong.

11 of the next 13 games are at home.

After that we finish with
14 road games. (Char, Orl, Bos, Tor, NJ, Mil, Philly, Det, Chi, NO, SA, Bos, Chi, Atl)
13 home games. (NO, NY, Det, SA, Bos, Indy, Det, Sac, Mil, Atl, Tor, Indy, Orl)

Only 2 back to back on the road games left.
-Den at home followed by Charlotte on the road (Tough two games)
-Bos on the road followed by Tor on the road (Another two tough games)