LeBron James quietly dominated his former team on Wednesday, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 113-93 home win over the Miami Heat. James had 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, as seven different Cavs reached double figures.
Cleveland (33-21) has now won 14 of its last 15 games. Is it safe to say that the Cavs have figured things out following their 19-20 start?
“Oh, absolutely,” SheridanHoops.com writer Chris Sheridan said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think one of the big problems with the Cavaliers – and I’m as guilty of this as anybody else – is that we set expectations so high for this team in terms of what they’re going to accomplish in the regular season when we should have set the expectations as to what they’re going to accomplish in the postseason.
“You bring in Kevin Love and you bring in LeBron James and pair them with a guy who’s been dominating the ball ever since he got to Cleveland – that guy’s Kyrie Irving – it’s going to take some time for you guys to mesh and figure each other out. You’ve all been the primary scorer and facilitator on all your teams in the past. Now you got to subjugate a little bit in different areas.”
The Cavaliers seem to have done that. They lost Anderson Varejao to a season-ending ankle injury, but general manager David Griffin cushioned the blow by bringing in Timofey Mozgov, who scored a game-high 20 points against the Heat on Wednesday, as well as Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, who combined for 23.
“Cleveland has very much righted their ship,” Sheridan said. “It doesn’t really matter what their record looks like going into the playoffs. But I think it does matter if they finish ahead of the Bulls in the division – because if you don’t beat the Bulls in the division, you’re going to be in a 4-5 series, and if you win that, you’re going to play the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs. And the way the Hawks are playing, that’s going to be a tough series.”
The Bulls (33-21) have a half-game lead over the Cavs in the standings. Those teams square off Thursday in Chicago at 8 p.m. ET.
“Tonight’s Cleveland/Chicago game means a lot,” Sheridan said, “and that Central division race is something to really keep an eye one – because there’s a big bonus for finishing first in that division. You get to avoid the Hawks.”
Brian Jones was quick to point out that everything that Chris Sheridan said was 100 percent logical and 100 percent lucid. Of course it was going to take time for the Cavs to gel.
So why were people freaking out when they got off to a slow start?
“Well, they looked pretty bad,” Sheridan said. “When they were going through their slump, they looked terrible. They were losing to terrible teams, and there was a lot of speculation about whether David Blatt was rubbing LeBron James the wrong way and whether David Blatt was the right guy to have brought in. He never coached in the NBA before, but he’s had success everywhere all over the world.
“Look, when LeBron James went to Miami, him and Erik Spoelstra didn’t hit it off right away, either,” Sheridan continued. “He came out of a Cleveland Cavaliers organization that catered to his every whim. And then he went into a brand new culture in Miami where he was one of 15 guys on the team and the boss is Erik Spoelstra and the boss above that is Pat Riley – and that’s just the way it is, and that’s the way it’s always going to be.
“So that took a little bit of getting used to for LeBron. So there’s an adjustment phase on a whole lot of different levels. But with the way these guys have been playing over the last three weeks, I think Cleveland has hit their stride. They’re nothing like the fragile team LeBron James called them earlier this season.”