The Cleveland Cavaliers (6-12) won their second game in a row for the first time this season by playing their best game of the 2013-14 season thus far against the Denver Nuggets (11-7) by a score of 98-88. The Bigs came to play for Cleveland, and that was the deciding factor in this one by a long shot. Mike Brown will be VERY pleased with how this one played out.
Key Play to the Game:
There really was no one play that I singled out as more important than the other, but the fact that Cleveland outrebounded the third-best rebounding team in the NBA (56.1 RPG) is a sign that with health, Cleveland can play BIG basketball. Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao combined for 49 points, 41 rebounds and seven blocks and led the fast-break charge early on for the Cavaliers with their tremendous defensive efforts. If the Cleveland frontcourt can stay healthy, then this is a HUGE advantage working for the Cavaliers, especially in a conference like the East that is struggling to find any identity right now. Maybe the Wine & Gold are finally starting to realize their potential and buy in to what Brown is preaching. If Brown can continuously start Thompson and Bynum next to each other and have Varejao come off the bench, this team will easily take advantage
Wine & Gold MVP:
Give it up to Tristan Thompson, who recorded nine rebounds in the first quarter, had a double-double before the second half got underway and grabbed an incredibly impressive nine offensive boards. That’s huge, as the Cavaliers cashed in on second-chance points all night long. Cleveland won by 10, so without Tristan, there is not way this team looks as fluid and scores as many points without the tremendous effort he put in on the boards and down low in the paint on offense. Double T finished with 17 points, 21 rebounds and shot 5 of 6 from the free throw line. This may have been the best game the third-year power forward has had in his young career. He’s putting in extensive minutes night in and night out (he just came off of a 14/14 game against Chicago) but is still able to put up these numbers at a pretty healthy rate thus far. Although he has had his fair share of games where he’s completely ineffective on offense, his rebounding efforts have him ranked eighth among power forwards in RPG and first among PFs in the Eastern Conference. Tristan, congrats on the career-high 20 rebounds, and keep up the great work. You’re proving a lot of detractors wrong thus far.
Anthony Bennett attacking basket off dribble is encouraging #Cavs
— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) December 5, 2013
It should be no surprise to anyone that Tristan Thompson already has a double-double. Denver’s defensive EFF is ranked dead last vs. PFs
— Roje Smith (@AgentSmith7) December 5, 2013
Faith is restored in this Cavs team? Fantastic first half. Career high 5 points AB and 11 points 13 LARGE rebounds from Thompson #CdnBallers
— Hoops Hype Canada (@HoopsHypeCA) December 5, 2013
This is Tristan Thompson’s 15th career game with 7+ offensive rebounds. #cavs
— Jacob Rosen (@WFNYJacob) December 5, 2013
That’s the first complete game that the Cavs have played this year. Nice win, solid contributions all over.
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) December 5, 2013
Coach Brown Breakdown:
Let’s take a quick look at what Mike Brown did with Anthony Bennett at the small forward position on Wednesday night: he let him play actual minutes next to Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao early on in the contest. These are the type of minutes that will make AB better. If you’re looking for some great in-depth analysis on why Bennett needs to be thrown into the ring sooner rather than later, check out netw3rk’s piece on Grantland from Wednesday. As horrible as Bennett has played, I have to agree with anyone who believes the only way Bennett will improve is if he sees more valuable playing time. This means playing with guys who are hustling down the court on fast breaks, cutting to the hoop in the PnR and rushing back to get on defense. These are all skills that require physical fitness, and Bennett just isn’t at that level yet. He took the first step Wednesday night to breaking out of his funk and raising his morale by hitting a three and dashing to the basket for probably the first time all season for an easy layup early on in the first quarter. This is when we need to see Bennett more often, because it gives him that sense of belonging. Nice move, Coach Brown.
The Cavaliers will head back on the road for a Friday night matchup against the Atlanta Hawks (9-10) at Phillips Arena. Cleveland is currently riding their only winning streak of the season (two games!!!) in to their first matchup with the Hawks this season. Atlanta has played pretty balanced basketball, which is why they’re hovering around that .500 mark. Early on they looked like they could be the third wheel to the Eastern Conference Championship date that the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have already set for themselves, but inconsistency is a big issue. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.