CLEVELAND: Twenty-one thoughts tonight, one for each of Tristan Thompson’s career-high in rebounds during a drama-free 98-88 victory over the Nuggets…
1. Maybe this is an overreaction to incredible numbers from one game, but I’m starting to wonder if the Cavs need to be a frontcourt dominant team in order to be successful.
2. Entering the season, I assumed they would be guard-dominated just because of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack. But with Waiters on the bench now and Andrew Bynum showing flashes of his old self, the Cavs may soon be at their best working inside-out.
3. Tristan Thompson was remarkable on the boards with 21 rebounds in 35 minutes. Anderson Varejao had 13 rebounds in 28 minutes. They aren’t going to put up numbers like that every night, but with the way Irving has struggled with his shot most of the season, getting the bigs their touches might need to be a necessity.
4. Part of the problem with incorporating Bynum has been the separate identities. It’s like the Cavs are two completely different teams – one when he’s on the floor and one when he’s not. Learning to play two styles on the fly was gruesome to watch for the first month. It’s hardly a finished product, but it’s clear Irving and the rest of the team seems a little more comfortable with Bynum now than they did even two weeks ago.
5. “It’s great to have those guys (Varejao and Thompson) because we’re a different team,” Bynum said. “We can play high screen and roll basketball when they’re out and we can play through the post when I’m in.”
6. A few games ago, Bynum was running out setting a number of high screens, which seemed in direct contrast of his real strengths. Now he’s focusing more on setting up in the post and going to work. He made just 2 of 8 shots in the first half, but clearly was inspired by the Nuggets’ coach and their bench.
7. “Too soft early in the game,” Bynum said. “Had to take me to get mad to play right.”
8. Bynum was clearly annoyed by J.J. Hickson, who was defending him most of the night. Hickson was giving up about three inches and 40 pounds to Bynum, who swatted Hickson for a flagrant foul in the third quarter. “The guy guarding me was an infant,” Bynum said.
9. He actually stole that line from C.J. Miles, who was hollering at the Nuggets all night, “They're babies! They can’t stop you!”
10. Shaw was an assistant with the Lakers for much of Bynum’s time in Los Angeles. Shaw was complimentary of Bynum before the game, but clearly said something that irritated him Wednesday night.
11. “I think just BShaw and their bench pissed me off a little bit,” Bynum said. He was blocked in the third quarter by Timofey Mozgov, which apparently got the Nuggets’ bench barking. When Bynum made a short turnaround jumper a minute later, he glared at the Nuggets’ bench and nodded.
12. Miles is starting to understand why Waiters and Irving were separated from the starting lineup. Miles said his role has completely changed since he was plugged into the starting lineup.
13. As a reserve, he was coming in and getting up shots regularly. Now he’s being asked to hold different roles while Irving and Bynum dominate the touches. Miles is also on a 16-minute limit, which has really jarred his rhythm.
14. Miles was shooting well before the calf injury. He’s 2 of 9 since returning (0 of 4 Wednesday) and the minutes limit is disrupting his flow. It’s not clear yet how much longer he’ll be on a tight restriction.
15. Still, at least Miles’ return is allowing Mike Brown to build a consistent starting lineup and rotation. Presuming Brown keeps this lineup intact, and there’s no reason to think he’ll change it now, it will be the third consecutive game with the same lineup.
16. The Cavs haven’t played four consecutive games with the same lineup since Brown starting juggling things after the first six games. Irving conceded this morning all the different lineups have impacted the team’s rhythm.
17. “It’s tough, but you’ve got to go out there and play,” he said. “That’s what we get paid to do. We’ve got to control what we can control and that’s playing hard.”
18. Irving had 23 points and four assists in his effort to break out of this shooting funk (9 of 20 Wednesday). Bynum thought he was more aggressive early. “When he comes out and sets the tempo like that and pushes us, we all play behind him,” Bynum said of Irving. “The last two games I’ve really seen a change in his mindset. He’s coming out and attacking.”
19. The Eastern Conference is officially a dumpster fire. As poorly as the Cavs have played, they’re 1 ½ games out of the No. 8 playoff spot. “That’s a good thing about being in the East right now, and I’m sure every other team feels the same,” Brown said. “We truly believe we haven’t played our best basketball. Contrary to what anyone believes, I do feel we’re getting better. We’re starting to understand how to play with Bynum. We’re starting to form an identity.”
20. Brian Shaw told a touching story before the game about the earring he wears in his left ear. It was actually his mother’s wedding ring. Both of his parents and sister were killed in a car accident in June 1993. After the accident, he turned his mother’s wedding ring into an earring. “It’s a way for me to always feel like I have her with me or like she’s in my ear,” he said. “That’s why I wear it.” He doesn’t wear it during games, however, because he isn’t sure how the league would feel about it.
21. Nice work by Fox Sports Ohio’s Lindsey Foltin, who should’ve been a detective. She had her cell phone stolen from Southpark Mall on Sunday, but she found it Monday … on eBay. She called the police and is working on getting it back. I trust if the criminal who stole it is dumb enough to post it on eBay the next day, he/she is not bright enough to read this and realize the cops are on his/her trail.