CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers needed no luck to handle the Washington Wizards on St. Patrick’s Day.
Cleveland led from start to finish and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was able to empty his bench with four minutes remaining in a 117-94 win.
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Here’s a look Beyond the Box Score from win No. 45.
1. The Cavs surpassed last season’s win total with their 45th victory with nine games to play. That’s called progress and a step forward, folks.
2. Last year the Cavs ran out of gas and faded down the stretch before bowing out in the play-in tournament. A year later, they are inching closer towards locking down the No. 4 seed in the East and home floor advantage for the first round. Again, we call this progress people.
3. “We're heading in the right direction,” Bickerstaff said. “We took over and myself and Kobe [Altman], we sat down and we had a plan. I think he's done a phenomenal job of bringing the right personnel in here and I think our coaching staff has done a great job of developing guys, but with the mindset that it's not about individual development. Too often you see individuals get better, but their teams never improve. I think our staff is focused on how do we take guys that can impact winning and how do they improve in those areas. So I think it's heading the right direction, but I mean it is still a part of the process for us. Our average age is 23 in our starting lineup. We're not finished getting better yet and that's the fun part of it. We have improved, we still have room to grow.”
4. This is the first Cavs team since the 1997-98 Cavs to win at least 45 games without LeBron James on the roster. That team finished 47-35 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
5. With nine to play, all eyes are on 50 wins. No Cavs team without LeBron on the roster has done that since the 1992-93 Cavs squad that went 54-28 before bowing out in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “A lot of records have LeBron’s name on it, so I mean anything without ‘Bron’s name on it [would] be super cool,” Darius Garland said. “So I mean 50 wins, I mean that just comes with us playing Cavalier's basketball, so as long as we do that, we'll get to 50 wins.”
6. Without Jarrett Allen, the Cavs still managed 78 points in the paint. “In our pick roll, we were just trying to find our options and get deep in the paint and then I feel like on our kick outs, they were closing out pretty well, but we would just drive again and get back to the middle and we were making our shots in the paint tonight,” Evan Mobley said. They never trailed, leading wire-to-wire against an inferior opponent. “It's never let our foot off the gas,” Garland said. “If we play like that at all 48 minutes, it's not a lot of teams that can beat us in this league, I believe.”
7. From the ‘you won’t see this often’ department, the Cavs were an abysmal 4-19 from beyond the arc yet still shot 55.2% overall from the field.
8. Garland led everyone with 24 points marking the 36th game with 20-plus. He also had nine assists and four rebounds.
9. Mobley and Donovan Mitchell each tossed in 20. Mobley tallied his first career game with 20 points, eight rebounds and 4 blocks while Mitchell pulled down six boards. It was the 46th time Mitchell scored at least 20 in a game this season.
10. Caris LeVert scored 15 points off the bench one six of nine shooting in 26 minutes. It’s the fifth straight game LeVert has scored at least 15. That’s the kind of effort Bickerstaff and the Cavs are going to need from him come playoff time.
11. The Cavs started hot shooting just over 59% through the first quarter and were 52.1% from the field through 24 minutes while holding a commanding 61-44 lead at the break. If it weren’t for a sluggish third quarter that saw Washington climb within 79-72, Cleveland might have won by 40. “I was a little disappointed in that third quarter, but I thought our guys did a great job of responding and you know, hate to have to be in those situations, but there are lessons learned from being in those situations,” Bickerstaff said.
12. Bickerstaff continues to stick with Lamar Stevens while Allen’s swollen eye heals. Stevens was solid once again in over 21 minutes of playing time. Stevens scored nine points to go with four rebounds.
13. Outside of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, it’s hard to see what the Wizards are doing. Beal and Porzingis combined for 42 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists. Kyle Kuzma looked disinterested as he finished with a game-low -22 plus-minus for his seven points that accompanied two rebounds, one assist and five fouls.
14. Hope everyone had a safe and fun St. Patrick’s Day. Cheers.