PHOENIX: Thirteen thoughts for the 13 inches of snow (or thereabouts) that fell in Cleveland on Wednesday prior to the Cavs’ surprising 110-101 win at Phoenix. I won't tell you that the temperature at tip-off tonight was 81 degrees here...
1. When I joked with Dion Waiters after the game that he was becoming the voice of sound and reason in the Cavs’ locker room, his eyes twinkled and he flashed a wide grin. “I’ve been in the media a lot for being the bad guy,” he said. “I’m changing my image.”
2. Waiters was joking. Sort of. He has certainly been in his share of headlines this season, but lately he truly has been the role of peacemaker. When Channing Frye seemed irritated with Matthew Dellavedova tonight, Waiters stepped in, just as he has done previously to defend teammates.
3. “Delly’s a chippy player,” Waiters said. “That’s how he plays. He can get under guys’ skin. I was just telling Channing it was nothing, it wasn’t really that serious, he didn’t have to react the way he did.”
4. When Mike Brown exploded following a non-call against the Spurs in a recent game, Waiters is the one who went out to retrieve his coach. Brown turned and saw Waiters coming for him and cracked up. I kept forgetting to ask Waiters what he told Brown that night and finally remembered to ask Wednesday. “You good?” Waiters told Brown. “I said it like 10 times. ‘You good? You good?’” It was obviously the tension-breaker Brown needed.
5. Waiters’ final numbers Wednesday weren’t all that special, and I thought he was invisible in the first half, but he had some huge shots tonight when the Cavs desperately needed some offense. I thought his 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer was one of the biggest shots of the game.
6. The Suns had just scored on a dunk to trim the Cavs’ lead to 79-77 and there certainly seemed to be that “here we go again” feeling creeping in, at least on press row. I’ve been critical of Waiters previously for holding onto the ball too long in end-clock situations, but he didn’t have time to wait Wednesday. Waiters took the ball, dribbled to the 3-point line and launched ahead of the buzzer. The crowd groaned when he made it, the lead was back to five and Waiters added two more big buckets at the start of the fourth quarter.
7. “He was great for us,” Brown said of Waiters. “Dion was big for us from the standpoint we were struggling to score. To be able to have that type of scoring punch coming off the bench or in your lineup is a big deal, especially as you saw tonight.”
8. C.J. Miles is getting really frustrated with this ankle injury. He finally got the inflammation out of the ankle, but it swelled up on him again following a recent workout. That’s part of the reason why he still hasn’t been able to return to the court. He has missed three weeks now and the time away is driving him crazy. He didn’t sound overly optimistic he’d play Friday at Golden State, but we’ll see.
9. Carrick Felix had a rough night. I mentioned this in the game notes, but Felix had to take a cab back to the team hotel because he left his blazer in his hotel room. He got stuck in rush hour traffic, was battling a migraine and the round trip cost him $100. And the hotel staff gave him a hard time about re-entering the room to get the jacket because the team had already checked out (they were flying to San Francisco immediately after the game). Felix, incidentally, hopes to start working out again soon. He has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his kneecap. Bet he won’t forget that jacket again.
10. I’m tired of calling every game a big game, every victory a big victory and every loss a stinging loss for this team. By now, you get the idea. But I will say that this was a bit surprising of a victory just based on both teams’ place in the standings. Given the opponents on this road trip, coupled with the miserable stretch next week at home, I thought this had the makings of spiraling into a 10-game losing streak.
11. Those negative vibes that plagued the locker room earlier this season seemed to be creeping back in – and I’m not the only one who noticed. A couple other people were talking about what seemed like a tense, grumpy locker room prior to the game. By the fourth quarter, however, there were jokes and smiles all around.
12. The Cavs sort of beat the Suns at their own game tonight. They pushed the pace, made 3-pointers, got back defensively and did a great job of rebounding the basketball. All of it added up to an impressive road win. The Cavs have now beaten five of the top 10 teams in the West, while losing in overtime to the Golden State Warriors and on a last-second shot against the Portland Trail Blazers. Otherwise they’d have wins over seven of the top 10 teams in the West .
13. Thanks to the time change, I’m about two hours away from being up for 24 hours straight, so I’m going to end it here for now. I’ll talk to you Friday from Oakland.