Plain and simple, it’s been a tough year to be a Cavalier fan. The team has only won 12 games, Varejao is out for the year, and Dion Waiters rookie season has been more up and down than Matthew McConaughey’s weight.
The Cavs have been rough to watch this year, there’s no getting around it. If you’ve found yourself tuning into a Cavs game to see a lineup of Gibson, Livingston, Casspi, Walton, and Zeller, hitting the guide button on the remote, and deciding to flip over to AMC to catch the last thirty minutes of The Shawshank Redemption then you are not alone.
It doesn’t make you less of a Cavs fan, it just makes you a rational person. Why watch Omri Casspi put the ball on the deck, attempt a euro step through the lane, and fumble the ball off his leg when you can watch Tim Robbins break out of prison with the sweet voice of Morgan Freeman narrating all along the way?
For the first time in what seems like ages, Shawshank wasn’t on tv this week, which meant the Cavs had some entertaining to do. A home win over Boston and 40+ points from Kyrie kicked off what would turn out to be a fun week to be a Cavalier fan. The next morning, news broke of the Cavs’ trade which sent Jon Leur to Memphis for Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and a first round pick with more conditions on it than Tiger’s new proposal for Elin. The Cavs landed two actual NBA players in Speights and Ellington, along with a Memphis’ first round pick several years down the road when they very well could be rebuilding once again. A great 24 hours to be a Cavs fan.
The fun continued on Thursday night when Kyrie Irving was named to his first all-star game. The 20 year old joined Magic, Shaq, Kobe, LeBron, KG, and Isiash as the only players to make an all-star team before their 21st birthday. We sometimes forget how young Kyrie really is. I don’t know what you were doing weeks before your 21st birthday, but the only significant accomplishment I achieved during that time period was finishing off two Four Lokos in one night. Kyrie is special, very, very special, and is starting to get the recognition he deserves.
Turn to Friday night, when the Cavs took on all-star snub, Brandon Jennings, and the Milwaukee Bucks. This looked like a classic hangover game if I’ve ever seen one. Coming off a big win against Boston on Tuesday and Kyrie receiving his all-star nod on Thursday, it seemed very logical for the Cavs to have a let down and get rolled by the Bucks.
And for 2.5 quarters that was the story. Trailing by 20 points midway through the third, Kyrie flipped a switch, put the team on his back, and willed the Cavs back into the game. It was Kyrie who brought the team back, but it was the second unit and new faces that propelled the Wine and Gold ahead for good.
9:32 – Speights uses his body to create separation, spins, and banks one off the glass to cut the Bucks’ lead to 3. Got to love watching a big man use a sound post move, and most importantly finish.
9:16 - My friends and I realize the five guys on the floor are Walton, Gibson, Livingston, Speights, and Ellington. Three guys who would normally make me start searching the guide for a Workaholics rerun, joined by the two newcomers. The remote stays on the coffee table, and my eyes stay on the tv.
8:02 - Luke Walton and Mike Dunleavy are guarding each other. Enough said.
7:31 - Speights banks another one home and a kid in the first row gets up from his seat to let off a mighty fist pump.
6:31 - After watching Speights provide a huge spark, Ellington takes his turn. The UNC product buries a 3 and gives the Cavs their first lead since the first quarter. Timeout Milwaukee. The crowd at The Q comes to their feet.
5:42 - After playing smothering defense, the Cavs grab the rebound, run out on the break, and Boobie hits from downtown to bring the Cavs lead to 4. For the first time all year, Byron Scott’s second unit is playing inspiring basketball and forcing me to keep the remote out of my hands.
5:12 - The Cavs high pressure defense forces a bad pass from Ilyasova that leads to a Speights steal. Marreese Speights has already made himself my new favorite Cavalier.
5:09 - Ellington has an and-1 called off for an offensive foul. If that would have stayed, the crowd would have reached the highest decibel level possible for a Bucks-Cavs game in the middle of January. Next trip down the floor, Ellington pulls of a pretty step back, and launches a 3. The shot draws iron, but it’s refreshing to see someone in the second unit be able to create their own shot.
4:01 - Following a Livingston bucket, and Speights free throw, Kyrie finally checks back into the game after spending the whole fourth on the bench. I understand riding the second unit while they’re hot, but Uncle Drew just scored 16 points in the 3rd quarter, he’s an all-star, and he needs to play more than four and a half minutes in the fourth quarter.
3:51 - Monta Ellis earns an opportuntity for a 4-point play after a dumb foul by Gibson, but misses the free throw. Cavs 102 Bucks 98.
2:52 - Speights draws a charge on Dunleavy. The big man gets up and let’s his emotions show, fueling the fire of the crowd at The Q and the dudes on my couch. Did I mention Speights is my new favorite Cav?
2:19 – Kyrie strokes a sweet jumper and the lead goes back to 6. Mr. 4th quarter is not going to let this one slip away.
1:06 – After two Milwaukee baskets and one of his own, Speights adds a free throw stretching the lead back to 5.
0:52 – Ilyasova scores his 28th point of the night to cut the lead to 3. In case you haven’t noticed, Ersan Ilyasova can play.
0:35 – Irving puts the Cavs back up 5 with a silky pull up j. The ball just looks nicer going through the hoop when it comes off Kyrie’s fingertips.
0:22 – Jennings misses a 3, Speights corrals the rebound and the Cavs’ 20 point comeback is complete.
The energy Speights and Ellington infuses into the second unit was like nothing we have seen all year long. Kyrie made it a game in the 3rd, the new bench unit brought the team in front to start the 4th, and Kyrie closed it out to end it. Forget the first 30 minutes of the game, the last 18 were a blast.
Hands down, this was the best week of the season so far to be a Cavalier fan.