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NBA -- Cavs heating up at the right time


PhilBoxing.com




CLEVELAND -- After starting the season at 1-3 and losing four straight last November 17 to 22, the Cleveland Cavaliers hardly looked like a playoffs team, let alone a championship contender.

Things only got worse from there after center Anderson Varejao underwent surgery for a torn Achilles on December 26 and was ruled out for the season.

Puff, there goes the championship, right?

Not really.

In what is clearly the brightest turnaround of the long season, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up the pieces, did some re-tooling and have roared back to life.

After losing Varejao, the Cavs dealt malcontent Dion Waiter and acquired 7-foot giant Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets as well as Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the reeling New York Knicks.

The result is a souped-up squad that is now universally acknowledged as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

After beating the Golden State Warriors, 110-99, on Thursday night at the Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavaliers have now won 18 of their last 20 games, the hottest current winning binge in the NBA.

Beating the Warriors required a herculean effort from LeBron James, who logged 42 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Kyrie Irving pitched in 24 markers while Kevin Love, the last piece of Cleveland's Big 3, added 16 points and eight rebounds.

And while the Cavs offense proved lethal when going on all cylinders, it's their defense that helped doom the Cavaliers as Cleveland held the Warriors to just 39 of 92 from the field, or a dismal 42.4 percent.

The Cavs held sharpshooters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to just a combined 31 points, forcing them to miss 20 of their 30 shots.

With a polished record of 37-22, the Cavaliers have now taken the Central Division lead over the 36-22 Chicago Bulls. And Cavs are just one game behind the 37-20 Toronto Raptors for the No.2 spot overall in the Eastern Conference.

The Atlanta Hawks continue to pace the East with a 45-12 slate, nine game ahead of Cleveland. But the way the Cavs are playing, they are leaving little doubt as to who is the best team in the East right now.

Photo: Cleveland's Big 3 (L to R) of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James is arguably the best trio in the NBA today.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Alex Boytan.


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