There are statistics from this most recent Cavs game that certainly jump off the page as reasons to be bullish about the direction of this young basketball team.
The Cavaliers won by double digits (14) again. Kyrie Irving scored 20 points. Tristan Thompson finished one rebound short of a 16-point double-double. The Cavs second unit outscored the Bobcats reserves 51-30. Twelve Cavaliers players scored at least two points. As a team the Cavaliers stayed hot from deep shooting over 47% (10 of 21) from three point range, with five players (Casspi, Jamison, Parker, Irving, and Gibson) hitting at least one.
This doesn't even begin to include though, the way we all felt at that moment when Kyrie Irving channeled a young Tayshaun Prince to both block a seemingly wide open lay-up, and then start the fast break himself down-court the other direction.
Nor does that 20-point night for Kyrie even begin to detail just how freaking effecient he was in the process. The kid missed only two shots all night (8 of 10 from the floor), and hit both of the two three pointers he attempted. He also played almost 22 minutes, dished out 6 assists, and turned it over ZERO times.
If I lied and also told you that I charted how many times Tristan Thompson altered a Bobcats' shot attempt throughout the game, by way of extending his 7'2" wingspanned arm into the Quicken Loans rafters, and that number was 14 you'd probably believe me after watching the game yourself. He made that much of an impact on the defensive end. The two blocked shots he was officially credited with do not even begin to tell how actively spectacular he was on that end of the floor.
This isn't even getting to fact that Daniel Gibson hit two more three's tonight to finish with eight, or the fact that Antawn Jamison poured in another 19-point effort of his own on Tuesday either. These stats also gloss over the fact that Byron Scott looked correct again in his repetitive statement throughout training camp that Alonzo Gee is in fact the most improved player on this team too.
As I mentioned on Twitter, Gee could very well be the best example of what it means to use the NBA Developmental League in a way that ultimately develops you into an NBA player. Gee finished with 8 points on 50% shooting from the floor, to go along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and he just might be a guy who comes off this bench playing a consistently similar role to the one he's playing now for years to come.
The most encouraging thing about this young group through these five games though, at least according to Byron Scott, is the way they are coming together as a real team. Something he talked about after the game.
Byron Scott On The Camraderie Of This Cavs Team: "I think everybody here is supportive of their teammates. That's one thing about our team that I love is the camaraderie. The starters sitting during the whole fourth quarter, they're up and down, cheering for the guys coming off the bench in the way their playing, it is a true team in every sense of it. When you have guys like AJ, and Anthony, and Andy, and veterans guys on the bench doing the same thing, it just shows where these guys are at this particular point, and that's a great feeling. Now I know we haven't hit any adversity yet, we'll see how we are when that happens, but I just like the way this team is coming together."
Omri Casspi did struggle tonight however, I do realize that everyone who tweeted at me in response to my pregame thought that he'd have a break-out night on Tuesday, but Byron Scott said afterwards that he continues to believe in Casspi. And he should. Omri will eventually see that first shot go through here soon one night, and when it does I believe the basket will open all the way back up for him. When he's able to find that comfort zone and start playing to his abilities, this team is going to be even more competitive than they demonstrated they can be in game five against Bobcats.
I say competive, as opposed to loosely using words like dangerous or something, because the more I see from this team the more I simply expect that they will at least compete every night. On paper, the Bobcats probably start one of the worst - if not the worst - starting fives in the NBA. I We do need to keep that in mind here with respect to my our early season enthusiasm.
Corey Maggette (21 points) should never be a team's best player ever, he wasn't even that when he played at Duke, and he probably is the best player on this Bobcats team. I guess maybe DJ Augustin (26 points, 9 assists) could be argued as the Bobcats best player, or maybe Gerald Henderson, but the fact that we're debating those names in an honest discussion of an NBA team's best player is pretty indicative of the fact that they don't really have one.
At the same time however, there are no NBA pundits who would've said two weeks ago that the Cavaliers line-up is all that much better in comparison. They probably still wouldn't. But the Cavs took care of business in this one, completely dominated the second half, and earned themselves their third NBA win of the season.
Things Get Pretty Real On This Road-Trip Though:
A road-trip that starts with a back-to-back, as the Cavaliers now immediately get ready to play the Raptors on Wednesday in Toronto. The Cavs are sitting at 3-2 right now, and I think that going 3-4, to come back home at 6-6 after these next seven away from the Q would be a massively successful trip. If they can do that, they'll have to win a total of three games in either Toronto, Minnesota, Portland, Utah, Phoenix, LAL, or Charlotte.
Toronto is winnable, Minnesota is winnable but they will be tougher than you think to beat and if the Cavs won that one I would consider it their best win of the season so far (Detroit, Nets, Bobcats, maybe TOR), Portland is almost not winnable, Utah could go either way, Phoenix could go either way but they aren't really the same Suns right now, the Lakers is probably an L, and Charlotte will be tougher at their place especially as the seventh game on this trip but also obviously winnable based on Tuesday.
So we'll see what happens. It's certainly fun for now at least on this most recent night, especially because it was Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson specifically who combined to score 36 points, grab 12 rebounds, dish out 7 assists, and block 4 shots on their way to being the main reasons why Cleveland did eventually win. And those two haven't even started playing together at the same time yet really.
Check back later for video of when I asked Paul Silas pregame about his thoughts on Cavaliers Rookie Tristan Thompson, as well as a post-game Q & A I did with Ramon Sessions...who by the way finished with 11 points and 9 assists in 26 minutes tonight.
Listening to these 2 rookies interviewed, I thought they were brighter and more insightful than most declining veterans.
Thompson is an extraordinary talent; Irving is just plain extraordinary.
You know, I always rooted for the Cavs. But when I saw Paul Silas last night
on the Bobcats' sideline, it brought back bad memories of players acting badly.
This team was a disgrace for years in the way players acted.
I am now proud of the young men representing our area.
The schedule is remarkably stacked with easy opponents in early games.
When we play the Blazers, the Thunder, the Heat, etc., things won't go so smoothly, but these young men will learn and improve and they will not quit.
@Bric Bric, honestly I cannot agree with you more regarding the way these two young guys have carried themselves off the court thus far.
I spent time talking to Tristan for a SLAM feature I did on him, and after we spoke for a while, my biggest takeaways were how refreshingly humble he is in addition to how very serious he is about being a good teammate, improving as a player, and simply helping his team win. Kyrie Irving appears the same way too.
This coupled with your point about them both being extraordinary talents, is def pretty exciting. Especially, like you said, when you rewind back to that Ricky Davis led group once coached by Paul Silas.
Great points, appreciate the comment.