A former Cavaliers head coach used to preach the importance of this – and he did so unintentionally enunciating every syllable. (Maybe that’s why it stuck with so many members of the media.)
The word is “con-tin-u-i-ty.”
And the World Champs haven’t had much of it during the latter half of the regular season.
For the first time since just before Christmas, the Cavaliers have finally had some continuity. It took four months of hard work and handwringing in between, but the Wine and Gold are finally fully loaded.
Even with J.R. Smith having to miss the second half of Monday’s Game 2 win over Indiana at The Q, the Cavaliers didn’t even switch assignments – inserting Iman Shumpert, who held Paul George to 4-for-11 shooting after intermission while going 2-of-3 for five points in relief.
Shumpert has been solid all season for Cleveland. He was healthy right from the start of Training Camp, jumped into the starting lineup in mid-January and shot better than 50 percent from three-point range over his next eight games – just as Cleveland needed a lift after a long road trip. He came back down to Earth offensively, but still shot a career-best .411 from the floor on the season. And, as usual, he was still one of the squad’s nastiest defenders.
In Game 2 on Monday night, Shump bounced back from a DNP-CD two days earlier to bring some serious juice to the squad after halftime.
”Shump was unbelievable,” praised Tyronn Lue after the 117-111 win. “Just staying ready and being professional, he came in and made it tough on Paul George. We held Paul George to four points in that third quarter. Our defense was really good and Shump sparked that. He made a couple of shots for us also.
”His tenacity was really good for us. We needed that spark.”
“But we’re right there on turning the switch on what we really can become.”
In terms of continuity, Coach Lue hit the mother lode with his Big Three – with Kyrie Irving (37), Kevin Love (27) and LeBron James (25) becoming the first trio in Cavaliers postseason history to top 25 points apiece.
LeBron continued his historic march through the record books – becoming he first player since steals and blocks were first tracked in 1973-74 to tally at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and four blocks in a Playoff game.
Kyrie is beginning this postseason run the way he ended the last one – topping the 20-point mark for the 21st time in his last 24 Playoff games, topping the 30-point plateau for the ninth time and making some history of his own, passing Mark Price for the 2nd-most points in franchise postseason history – and the meter’s still running … fast.
Love got off to his normal strong start – netting 10 points in the first period – then went on a personal 10-0 mission, tormenting Lance Stephenson in a decisive third-quarter run that drove the crowd berserk and gave the Cavs some breathing room – (they’d need all of it) – to take the two-game lead.
After the loss – the Pacers’ ninth straight at The Q – Coach Nate McMillan explained Indy’s ill-fated decision.
”We were trying to cool off Kyrie,” said McMillan. “He had a big quarter, so we went to a matchup to cool him off. I think we put Paul (George) on Kyrie, and Lance went to Love. They do a great job of recognizing matchups and taking advantage of it. I thought that was huge.”
Lue has found some favorable matchups over the first two games of the series and was able to get the ball out of George’s hands at the end of Game 1. He also drew up another outstanding late-game in-bounds play – springing Kyrie for an almost-uncontested layup with under 30 seconds to play.
The Cavs got good contributions from elsewhere in the win. Tristan Thompson grabbed half of his 10 rebounds off the offensive glass, including a crucial contested board off a Kyrie three-point miss with 48 ticks remaining. Deron Williams netted nine quick second-quarter points that helped Cleveland hold off Indiana before intermission.
The Cavaliers undoubtedly have some things to clean up before heading to Indiana – where the Pacers have taken 12 of the previous 14. Cleveland is averaging 15.0 turnovers through two games and missed 13 free throws on Saturday afternoon. They’ve almost squandered double-digit fourth-quarter leads in each game.
And of course, Swish’s hamstring, originally though not to be serious, is always a concern.
But the offense is humming right now – averaging 113.0 points per, shooting .545 from the floor, including .407 from long-range while handing out 22.5 assists through the first two.
The Cavaliers finally have some continuity.
And their leader knows that they’re close to where they need to be.
”We’re right there (near) what we know we can become and we’ll figure it out,” said a confident LeBron after Monday’s win. “We make plays down the stretch to win a ball game, and in the postseason that’s all you can ask for. But we’re right there on turning the switch on what we really can become.”