CLEVELAND: Twenty-four thoughts tonight (to commemorate Ohio State’s winning streak) following an impressive 88-82 win over a very good Clippers team…
1. Late in the game during a stoppage in play, Mike Brown huddled the players together to diagram an offensive play even though the Cavs were on defense at the time. The thought was to save a timeout, but it still seemed a bit out of character for a head coach who is so defensively minded.
2. Tristan Thompson interrupted when Brown stopped to take a breath and shouted that play wouldn’t matter if the Cavs didn’t get a stop on this possession. Brown was so happy he stopped talking. “I might as well get out of the huddle and let them handle it,” he said. “When you start hearing stuff like that, it gets you excited as a coach."
3. Brown has referenced a couple of times the blind trust players must have in his system and beliefs. Thompson reiterated that blind trust sentiment Saturday night when we were talking about his impulsive motivational speech. I imagine it must be hard at times for these guys to trust in Brown’s principles. The core of this team hasn’t won yet consistently in the NBA and they’ve suffered some bad losses this season.
4. When the Nuggets were in town a few days ago, J.J. Hickson said it was no fun going to a Mike Brown practice because all he is going to talk about is defense. Hickson was a youngster then, about the same age as many players on this Cavs team. Yet now that Hickson has matured a little and is with his fourth team in the last four seasons, he seems to have a deeper appreciation for Brown.
5. “It sounds like a broken record when he talks, but it works,” Hickson said. “He doesn’t have the [championship] rings to show it, but he has the wins. I know it took me a whole year, year and a half, to buy into it, because who wants to come to practice to work on defense? But in this league that’s what wins championships, and that’s something [the players] have to understand. Once I got it, and once a team gets it, that’s when a team makes it far in the playoffs or wins a championship.”
6. The Cavs aren’t there yet, but they do have a couple of impressive wins the last few days against two awfully good teams in a terrific Western Conference. Victories over the Nuggets and Clippers make the Cavs 3-3 against the mighty West and 4-10 against the woeful East. It makes no sense, but then much of this season has been perplexing anyway.
7. If the playoffs began today, both the Nuggets and Clippers would be in. That makes the Cavs’ two most recent home wins awfully impressive, but it also begs the question why they can’t play this way on the road?
8. “That’s something we’re trying to figure out right now,” Thompson said. “The key for us is to come out with the same mentality.”
9. Which brings us back to the “blind faith” in Brown. The Cavs have suffered some truly brutal losses on the road this season, but seem to be embracing Brown’s defensive principles.
10. “It’s new so you’re going to face adversity,” Thompson said. “That’s what makes it more rewarding when you pull out these kinds of wins. If it was easy, we wouldn’t see the value in what he’s saying. We’re going to have our ups and downs, like (Friday) night we were piss-poor. Tonight we knew we had to bounce back.”
11. In my first game story, the one that had to be filed as soon as the game ended, I wrote that Kyrie Irving rebounded nicely from his scoreless performance Friday. That was probably being too kind. Yes, Irving had 20 points and six assists and the Cavs won, but he only shot 6 of 15 (40 percent) and he turned it over seven times.
12. Hardly anyone shot the ball well on either side. That’s why the Cavs shot 37 percent and the Clippers 32 percent. Both teams missed a ton of open looks. C.J. Miles was 1 of 7, Dion Waiters was 1 of 10, Chris Paul was 4 of 16 and Jamal Crawford was 5 of 18.
13. Given all of the offensive struggles, Doc Rivers thought Anderson Varejao’s 17 rebounds were the difference in the game. “Both teams were pretty pathetic offensively,” he said, “but his energy was the difference.”
14. As for Waiters, his 30-point performance Friday was followed with a clunker at least offensively. But Brown was pleased with his six rebounds and thought his offensive rebound off his own missed free throw late in the game may have been the single biggest play of the night.
15. It extended the possession and eventually got Irving to the line for more free throws that sealed it. “You can impact the game at any time no matter what you’re shooting,” Brown said.
16. The Cavs smashed the Clippers in rebounding 60-45. Jarrett Jack had nearly as many rebounds (nine) as Blake Griffin (10). Varejao and Thompson combined for 30 rebounds after combining for 34 in the win over the Nuggets. They began the night 14th in the league, but they can probably be even better, particularly now that Andrew Bynum is rounding into form.
17. “When we lock in and eat the glass up the way we ate it up tonight, we’re a tough team to beat,” Brown said. He’s right. Varejao, Thompson, Jack and Waiters combined to equal the entire Clippers team in rebounds. That’s two forwards and two guards.
18. Griffin has long held the reputation as a bit of a fake tough guy and that seemed to surface again late in the game when he shoved Varejao to the ground and then tried to go after him. In Griffin’s defense, Varjeao gave him a pretty good pop with the shoulder, then Varejao seemed to dramatize his fall to the ground after the Griffin shove.
19. Still, it was silly for Griffin to try and stand over or get at a defenseless Varejao who was on his back. Varejao just laid there laughing and didn’t seem threatened by the whole incident. “I didn’t think he was going to do anything,” Varejao said.
20. As for the fan who ran onto the court, this is becoming a problem. I’ve long been of the belief if a moron wants to get onto the floor, there isn’t much the team can do to stop him. The prosecution of these people needs to become more severe and more public before something really bad happens.
21. It was obviously a copycat off last year’s dumb idea when a senseless fan ran onto the floor to ask LeBron James to return. So this kid (literally, the Cavs said he’s a juvenile) ran down through the middle of the stands and jumped over a row of seats wearing a t-shirt asking Irving to stay. The Cavs control Irving’s rights for at least two more years and he can sign an extension this summer.
22. Frankly I’m surprised this type of thing doesn’t happen more often, but obviously Cavs officials need to review their security measures. A team spokesman said that is already underway and that the team will encourage Cleveland police to prosecute the juvenile to the fullest extent of the law.
23. The scary part is the kid was on the court for a good six seconds before anyone noticed or did anything about it. He got all the way up next to Irving, tapped him on the shoulder and showed him his shirt while the other nine guys started running toward the other end before the officials stopped play six seconds later. Six seconds is a long time for an intruder to be out on the court.
24. Come to think of it, the Cavs were preparing to play the Clippers a couple of years ago when a deranged man entered Staples Center prior to tip-off wielding a knife. He was shot by police with rubber bullets after a 20-minute standoff. Maybe these two teams should just play in a steel cage next time.