CLEVELAND: Fourteen final thoughts tonight following the Cavs’ 87-81 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.
1. It’s obvious at this point Andrew Bynum’s departure means more minutes for Anderson Varejao. That could be very good … or disastrous.
2. Varejao tied a team record with his 25 rebounds Thursday. He was putting up All-Star numbers last season before he was injured, averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds. Yet it’s fair to wonder if part of the reason he’s managed to play in more games this season than any of the last three years is because he’s primarily been a bench player. Varejao is averaging 29 minutes a game this season, 7 fewer than last year. Over the course of a full season, that’s the equivalent of 12 full games. That’s significant.
3. Now that Bynum is gone, Varejao’s minutes are increasing. He played more than 39 minutes Thursday. The only game he has logged more this season was a double-overtime win against the Sixers. He played more minutes only once in each of the last two injury-marred seasons. Even Mike Brown said after the game he’d prefer not to play Varejao that much.
4. But he was terrific Thursday. Dion Waiters called him a rebounding machine. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said keeping him out of the paint was a point of focus. "He was a problem for us all night," Vaughn said. "He's relentless."
5. Varejao says he finally feels 100 percent healthy and he’s felt that way for about the last three weeks or month. Now the key will be keeping him upright, particularly now that Bynum is gone. “I don’t worry about it at all,” Varejao said of injuries. “I feel pretty good. As long as I feel good, I want to play.”
6. The Magic were without Nikola Vucevic, which certainly created more opportunities for Varejao. And these two teams combined to miss 115 shots, which is staggering in its ineptness. But Mike Brown is right when he said the Cavs just kept playing.
7. “This is one that’s going to hurt for a little bit,” Vaughn said.
8. Brown has tried all season to convince this team they can win a game with defensive stops rather than trying to outscore the opponent. It finally happened tonight.
9. Matthew Dellavedova doesn’t have much of a ceiling, which is why he wasn’t drafted. He is what he is. But tonight he came up with some pretty big plays. His tie up with Glen Davis in the first half wasn’t a game-changer, but it showed his fearlessness. Delly reached in and grabbed the ball while Davis – a man with at least 5 inches and 90 pounds on him – looked on with part shock and annoyance. Even as officials blew the whistle for a jump ball, Delly refused to let go.
10. Then he caught Davis on a big charge in the final minute of overtime and defended Arron Afflalo on the Magic’s next possession when Afflalo dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds.
11. The frantic, last-minute comeback and loss masks how bad this offense is without Irving. Jarrett Jack (14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) was very good in his absence, but Dion Waiters shot 6-for-20, Earl Clark was 2-for-10 and even Jack was only 5-for-16. The Cavs actually have a stretch of winnable games (including most of the upcoming West Coast trip), but it will be difficult for this team to win anywhere without Irving. The Cavs are hopeful he’ll be back sooner than later.
12. Anthony Bennett took a step back tonight. He had actually been playing better lately, but tonight he was terrible. He missed all four of his shots (including one off the side of the backboard), turned it over twice and committed two fouls within his first 30 seconds on the court.
13. As for the trade with the Lakers over Pau Gasol, these two teams are going to dig in and take this to Tuesday’s deadline. When they dealt Ramon Sessions to the Lakers a couple years ago, the Cavs didn’t have much leverage. Everyone knew Sessions was opting for free agency after the season (he wanted the chance to start) and there wasn’t much of a market for point guards. So the Cavs swallowed the remainder of Luke Walton’s contract to get the Lakers’ first-round pick and the right to swap future picks (which moved them up significantly in last summer’s draft).
14. The Cavs have a little more leverage this time. The Lakers keep insisting on an asset (I’ve heard Sergey Karasev’s name mentioned) or a first-round pick and the Cavs aren’t interested in giving away assets. The offer is simple: If the Lakers want to get out of the luxury tax and avoid the repeat offenders clause next season, this is their way out. If not, the Cavs can simply release Bynum and create $6 million in cap space entering the NBA’s trading season. But Gasol can certainly help this team in its quest for the playoffs. We’ll see which side, if either one, blinks first.