Cavaliers continue to break records

USA today previews the 76ers. After winning their NBA-record ninth straight game by 12 or more points, the Cavaliers look to continue their remarkable run as they visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

James became Cleveland’s career leader in steals by swiping a pass in the opening minute of Tuesday night’s game. Mark Price set the previous record of 734 steals in 582 games with Cleveland from 1986-95. James, already the Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer, has played in 412 games since turning pro in 2003.

Ilgauskas joined James in the franchise record book in the second quarter, when he became the Cavs’ rebounding leader. Ilgauskas, who’s played his entire 11-season career with Cleveland, passed Brad Daugherty with his 5,228th rebound.

Though impressive, those records took a backseat after the Cavaliers (18-3) routed Toronto 114-94 to set an NBA record with nine straight wins by at least 12 points. They had shared the previous record of eight straight with four other teams – Portland (1990-91), Chicago (1996-97), Detroit (2003-04) and Houston (2007-08).

“That’s unbelievable,” James said. “Knowing the history of some of the great teams, the Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10, the Celtics teams, the Lakers teams and the Pistons teams, it’s unbelievable for our franchise to accomplish something like that.”

Gibson Sprains Toe

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson left Tuesday’s win over the Raptors with a sprained toe.

Gibson was injured early in the second quarter and did not return to the game. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday and did not travel with the team for its game against Philadelphia.

Cavs Set Individual and Team Records in 114-94 Win Over Toronto

The wins and records just keep piling up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who improved to 18-3 with a 114-94 victory over the Toronto Raptors. LeBron James had 31 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, surpassing Mark Price’s franchise record for career steals (734) with a swipe that led to a fast break dunk shortly after the game began. Three other Cavs scored in double figures: Wally Szczerbiak (16 points), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13 points, six rebounds) and Mo Williams (13 points, nine assists, one turnover). Ilgauskas broke Brad Daugherty’s franchise career rebounding record (5227) shortly before halftime. James and Ilgauskas each received standing ovations during the first stoppage of play after they reached their milestone achievements.

Those individual marks are impressive, a tribute to James’ quickness and defensive improvement and Ilgauskas’ longevity, perseverance and tenacity respectively but the Cavs set an NBA record that is astounding: they have now won nine straight games by at least 12 points each, breaking a tie for the NBA record that they had shared with Portland (1990-91), Chicago (1996-97), Detroit (2003-04) and Houston (2007-08); Chicago and Detroit won championships in those seasons, Portland made it to the Western Conference Finals after having the best record in the NBA and the injury-depleted Rockets put together the second longest regular season winning streak in NBA history. The Cavs have triumphed by an average of 21.5 ppg during their nine game winning streak and James has not played a minute in the fourth quarter in six of Cleveland’s last eight games.

The Cavs’ success this year is based on the three pronged formula that has served them so well in recent seasons—defense, rebounding and LeBron James’ brilliance—plus a fourth prong added to the mix this summer: point guard Mo Williams, who has been better than advertised defensively and whose ability to create shots for himself and others (he ranks second on the team in scoring and assists) has helped to keep James fresh while involving the whole team in the offensive flow. The Cavs rank fourth in the NBA in scoring and second in the NBA in field goal percentage after ranking 24th and 27th respectively in those categories in 2007-08. Of course, being a high scoring team is hardly a guarantee of playoff success in the NBA, so the foundation of Cleveland’s game plan under Coach Mike Brown has always been defense and rebounding and the good news for Cavs’ fans is that the team’s offensive improvements have not come at the expense of productivity in those areas: the Cavs lead the league in fewest points allowed and defensive field goal percentage after ranking ninth and 11th respectively in those departments in 2007-08. The Cavs led the NBA in rebounding differential last season and this season they are again leading but by an even wider margin.

Only one Raptors starter scored in double figures, point guard Jose Calderon (14 points); Joey Graham led Toronto with 17 points off of the bench. Chris Bosh is one of the NBA’s top scorers this year but Ben Wallace and company almost completely shut him down (nine points, 11 rebounds, 4-11 field goal shooting); offseason acquisition Jermaine O’Neal was also a nonfactor (eight points, four rebounds, four assists, 2-6 field goal shooting). The Raptors have some talented players but they do not mesh well on offense and do not seem to have much interest in defense, though part of Toronto’s defensive problems in this game were caused by committing live ball turnovers that resulted in fast break dunks; dead ball turnovers like a traveling violation, a three seconds call or a charge result in losing possession of the ball but at least you can set up your half court defense after those kinds of miscues, but when your players throw the ball to an opponent or get ripped while dribbling the ball then the other team almost always has a numbers advantage in a fast break situation. That is exactly what happened on the first two plays of the game, both of which resulted in soaring dunks by James, who had seven dunks overall. If the NBA allowed James to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest by submitting videos of his in-game dunks he probably would win hands down; against Toronto he took off from a variety of angles and distances and during his third quarter slam that gave Cleveland a 67-53 lead he put his left hand behind his head and buggy whipped a right handed dunk a la Karl Malone in the Mailman’s prime.

Although the Cavs opened the game with a 16-5 run and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, some sloppy second quarter play by Cleveland enabled Toronto to creep back to within five points before James hit a long three pointer just prior to the halftime buzzer. However, the Cavs took over the game with a 23-4 run at the start of the third quarter; James had seven points and one assist during that burst. He then scored Cleveland’s last four points of the quarter to put the Cavs up 90-67, earning a well deserved fourth quarter rest.

Thanks to the L.A. Lakers’ loss at Sacramento, the Cavs now own the second best record in the NBA, just one and a half games behind the defending champion Boston Celtics. Cleveland has the best point differential by far this season (13.6 ppg), easily surpassing the Lakers (11.0 ppg) and Celtics (9.2 ppg). Considering that point differential is a good predictor of team success, if the Cavs stay healthy it is not unreasonable to expect them to win 65 games and possibly even become just the second team to win 70 games. The Cavs lost at Boston on opening night and have yet to play the Lakers but, having seen all three teams not only on TV but also in person, I think that the Cavs are the best team in the NBA right now based not just on numbers but also on their mindset, their discipline and the lack of any obvious weaknesses at either end of the court.

Ilgauskas offered a great summary of his team’s championship level mindset: “We treat everybody the same. We respect everybody, but we fear nobody.”

Cavaliers Beat the Bobcats (94-74)

Lebron James coming off his lowest scoring game so far this season scored 25 points and he wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter. This is the fifth time in the past two weeks where Lebron wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter.

The winning streak is now eight and in each the Cavs have won by at least 12 points, tying an NBA record for consecutive victories by a dozen points or more.The last team who did this was the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. That team went 72-10 and went on to win the NBA Championship.

Charlotte had won four of its past five home games and had the firepower to beat the Cavs. The Cavaliers had 12 points lead six minutes into the game and kept the lead.

“We’re not going out there trying to blow everyone out,” James said. “We’re just getting big leads and keeping them.”

James was the primary defender against Gerald Wallace on Saturday. Wallace came in averaging 16 points, and he managed a single point.

Ben Wallace blocked three shots and had eight rebounds in 20 minutes.

Ilgauskas blocked five shots and grabbed 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. He sat out the fourth quarter and remain four rebounds shy of supplanting Brad Daugherty (5,227) as Cleveland’s career leader.

“Teams are having a hard time scoring on us, on the road and at home,” Ilgauskas said. “Get a lot of steals, contest all the shots, limit them to one shot and off to the races. We’ve been playing good basketball.”

Daniel Gibson has had his best games of the season against the Bobcats. In their first meeting on October 30, Gibson scored 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Last night he had 22-points on a 9-13 shooting (3-4 from the three points line) in 31 minutes.

The Cavaliers, now 17-3 and off to the best start in franchise history, return to The Q for a Tuesday night matchup with the Raptors.

NBA highlights From December 6th


Cavaliers Pound Pacers

The Cavaliers only needed 11 points from Lebron James, his lowest since Oct. 31 of last year when he scored 10 against the Dallas Mavericks.Lebron spent most of the night  guarding Danny Granger who scored  33 points on him last month. This time, Lebron held him to four points.

“He’s the key to their team and they aren’t going to be as good if he’s not on,” said James. “I just took it upon myself to lock in on him and let my team on the other end take care of the offense. It was all about defense. We have enough guys who can score.”

The victory is Cleveland’s seventh straight and 15th in the last 16. They are 11-0 at the Q.

Varejao was a perfect 7-for-7 in the first half on Friday and finished the game 7-for-9, scoring all 17 of his points before intermission. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 17 points, 15 came in the second half.

The Cavaliers held the Pacers 28 points below their season average and shot just 40 percent, just 31 percent after halftime. The Cavs blocked 10 shots, three from James and two each from Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and forced 17 turnovers.

“Defense,” James said, “is our staple.”

“It was a great team effort, led by LeBron,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “LeBron is a guy who likes to take on challenges, and Danny had a good ball game last time he was here, and LeBron knew that.”

“They’re a great basketball team,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “They’re playing on all cylinders right now and we didn’t have what it took.”

The Pacers have lost nine of 12 overall and nine straight to Cleveland.

Cavs rack up another W over the Knicks

Weary, shorthanded Knicks fall to LeBron’s Cavs

LeBron James said all the talk surrounding his decision coming in 2010 is not a distraction to him or the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe for the Knicks, but not for the Cavs. Why?

“We’re good,” he said.

They’re also a world apart from the rebuilding Knicks, who were undermanned and overwhelmed yet again by an elite team in a 118-82 loss to LeBron and the Cavaliers last night at Quicken Loans Arena.

“We ran into a good team without any gas in the tank and it showed,” Mike D’Antoni said of the Knicks (8-10), who were clearly worn down in the second game of a back-to-back. They have lost three straight and seven of their last nine since a 6-3 start.

Meanwhile, the Cavs (15-3) improved their mark at the Q to a franchise-record 10-0 and have won six straight and 14 of their last 15 games.

Al Harrington took down James on a layup attempt with 10:36 left in the third quarter and was whistled for a flagrant foul. James felt the hard foul, which resulted in two free throws to make it a 65-35 Cavaliers’ lead, could have been avoided but held no grudge.  Crisis averted.


Cavaliers, Celtics looking better every day

The Cleveland Cavaliers keep rolling at home while the Boston Celtics have been unbeatable almost anywhere. The Eastern Conference’s two best teams look better every day. LeBron James scored 21 points then grabbed an early seat on the bench as the Cavaliers improved to 10-0 on their own floor for the first time in their history and won their 14th in 15 games, 118-82 over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

The Cavs, who have won six straight overall, improved their best ever start to 15-3. Cleveland opened 9-0 at home in both the 1976-77 and 1991-92 seasons.

“We’re going to stay humble, and play every game like its our last,” James said.

Cleveland would be dangerous with home-court advantage in the playoffs, but the Celtics seem intent on keeping that for themselves.


Ben Wallace has “Shoes” too

Brian Windhorst gives us the scoop on Big Ben’s shoe deal.

Ben Wallace is now a free agent, at least when it comes to shoes.

Last year when he was a member of the Chicago Bulls, Wallace launched a partnership for a signature shoe and clothing line with Steve & Barry’s. Like Stephon Marbury, Wallace joined up with the discount sporting goods retailer to offer low-priced shoes and apparel. One of 11 children, Wallace grew up in a family where money was tight and was pleased he could be part of an effort to offer low-cost shoes.

Like with Marbury, though, the good intentions did not work out.

“Things didn’t happen the way they said they would,” Wallace said. “They didn’t produce all the pieces they said they would.”

Last week, Steve & Barry’s announced it was liquidating its 173 remaining stores nationwide five months after it initially declared bankruptcy. Wallace became frustrated with the company earlier this year but has continued to wear his signature shoes, called the Big Ben, which had retailed for $14.98.

Earlier this year, Marbury sued Steve & Barry’s for $2 million in unpaid royalties. Wallace hasn’t taken such actions, but is looking for a new company to endorse.

“I like the shoes and I still have quite a few new pairs so I’ll wear them for a while,” Wallace said. “But I’ve been a free agent.”


Raptors fire coach Mitchell

Only 17 games into the season and another team pull the trigger and fire their coach. Today, the Toronto Raptors fired coach Sam Mitchell one day after an embarrassing (132-93) loss at Denver.

“Obviously, last night’s game was just an absolute kick to the gut,” General manager Bryan Colangelo said. “When you look back, it’s a culmination of things. Expectations are high. We want to win.”

In four-plus seasons with the Raptors, Mitchell led Toronto to a franchise record 47 wins and the Atlantic Division title and went 156-189.

“I have a lot to be thankful for, they really gave me the opportunity to have a career in coaching, something I always wanted to do after I played,” Mitchell told Canadian sports network TSN. “So yeah, it’s a disappointment that I really wasn’t given the chance to finish what I started, but you know what, I feel like I accomplished a lot of good things. I think the players that played for me all got better.”

Assistant coach Jay Triano will coach the Raptors for the rest of the season.

Mitchell is the third NBA coach to be replaced this season. Oklahoma City fired P.J. Carlesimo and Washington dismissed Eddie Jordan last month.