INDEPENDENCE: The Cavaliers are riding their longest winning streak in nearly a year, Kyrie Irving is the reigning player of the week in the Eastern Conference and the team can finish a month at least .500 for the first time in three years.
Finally, things are starting to improve for a franchise filled with losses and heartbreak for the past three years.
“We have a chance to continue to have a nice little streak,” coach Byron Scott said. “If we go out and do the things we’ve been working on and the things we’re capable of doing, we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity at the end to win the game.”
The Cavs have won three in a row entering tonight’s home game against the Golden State Warriors in large part to Irving, who averaged a league-best 35.7 points last week and shot 61 percent in the three victories. He was rewarded Monday with his first player of the week award.
A starting job in the All-Star Game could be next, although the starter to replace the Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo won’t be selected in the near future. The coach for the Eastern Conference hasn’t even been determined yet and it’s the coach’s call.
For now, the Cavs are thrilled with what Irving is providing.
“He’s had probably one of the best weeks of his life,” Scott said, adding in the Professional Athlete of the Year award he won at last week’s Greater Cleveland Sports awards banquet. “I think he’d be the first to admit it’s been a great week for him. But he wants to continue to grow as a basketball player and continue to grow as a leader, and keep playing the way he’s playing. Just stay aggressive.
“That’s the one thing that he had a tendency of getting away from, from time to time. But now he understands that we need him to be aggressive from the time he steps on the floor to the time he comes out of the game.”
A victory over the Golden State Warriors tonight would make the Cavs 7-7 for the month of January, their first non-losing month since they went 13-2 in March of the 2009-10 season.
It might not sound like much, but for a team that was flirting with the league’s worst record just a couple of weeks ago, it’s progress.
As a result of that progress, Scott is keeping his starting lineup intact. That means Dion Waiters is back as the shooting guard and C.J. Miles will return to his bench role. Waiters is averaging 9.7 points and shooting just 35 percent in the three starts, but since the Cavs are undefeated since he returned to the lineup and Scott concedes he is superstitious, he is sticking with what works.
Miles did not play in Saturday’s victory over the Toronto Raptors even though he was cleared to return following a virus. Scott wanted to give him a chance to get his legs back a bit in Monday’s practice, but said he is sticking with this lineup because it has been their most productive.
The Cavs are 6-4 with a lineup of Irving, Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. They’re 7-28 with any other combination.
“They’ve played pretty well together,” Scott said. “As young as they are, they still play pretty good.”
A large assist for the Cavs’ recent fortunes has to go to veterans Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights, who have provided a much-needed steady hand to the second unit. Speights is averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games with the Cavs, and Ellington has made 4-of-7 3-pointers — including two big ones Saturday night during the Cavs’ fourth-quarter rally.
“We brought some energy,” Ellington said. “We both have some energy in this league and know what it takes to win. We didn’t have any practice. We didn’t know the plays. We just went out and played hard. It’s contagious. Everybody else did the same thing.”
Daniel Gibson did not participate in Monday’s practice because of his sprained toe and appears doubtful to play tonight. … Anderson Varejao was a visitor at practice after he was released from the hospital last week following treatment for a blood clot in his right lung.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.