If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while taking offense at a Budweiser ad because you like craft beer…
1) Remember when we said it would take time but Cleveland would eventually figure things out? Eventually is here. Before the season we kept saying it: It’s not how the Cavaliers are playing in December, it’s how they improve over the season, it’s how they play in April. Or, maybe they got there by February. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won 12 games in a row now and Thursday night they dismantled the Los Angeles Clippers on national television. What have been the knocks on them recently? That they can’t get Kevin Love involved? He had 24 points on 14 shots, he was attacking and got to the line a dozen times Thursday. Another issue was the Cavaliers don’t play defense? The Clippers had the best statistical offense in the NBA this season and yet shot just 41.8 percent and scored 96.1 points per 100 possessions, 14 below their season average. In their last 10 games the Cavaliers have allowed 96.9 points per 100 possessions, fourth best in the NBA. The Cavaliers have hit their stride, they could be the No. 2 seed in the East by the time the playoffs start, and they are contenders. Oh, and they still are putting up some highlight plays.
2) Charlotte is not going away just because Kemba Walker went down. Since Kemba Walker went down with a knee injury (he is out another five weeks at least) the Hornets have gone 4-1. And after Wednesday night’s win that includes a sweep of a home-and-home series against Washington. They aren’t doing it with offense, which has been feeble all season and been worse without Walker. However, the Hornets are back to playing lock-down defense — the Wizards scored just 91.1 points per 100 possessions Thursday — exactly the league-best average the Hornets have allowed the last 10 games. Charlotte is the seven seed in the East right now, just 1.5 games up on nine seed Brooklyn, but the way they are defending it’s hard to see the Hornets falling out of the playoffs.
3) As if the Wizards don’t have enough issues, Bradley Beal goes down. Washington is stumbling right now, going 3-7 in their last 10 games, and they just dropped a home-and-home with Charlotte. Now this: shooting guard Bradley Beal left the game Thursday night in the first quarter with a toe injury, not to return. Beal had been playing through a foot injury for a couple of games, according to J. Michael at CSNWashington.com, and seems to have aggravated it. Doctors will examine Beal on Friday and determine what the next step will be — he says he wants to play Saturday but the team likely will be cautious. Washington will miss Beal if he’s gone for any length of time; its offense jumps five points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor. Right now the Wizards don’t need any more steps back.