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Those vanquished team’s big guns, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant, took home the essential hardware over the weekend. The Cavs’ lone representative, Daniel Gibson, didn’t fare as well in the Three-Point Shootout.
On a snowy Monday night, the squad got back to the hardwood at Cleveland Clinic Courts, and Coach Byron Scott admitted that he worked their butts off.
The second half of the Cavaliers’ season has only 26 games remaining, beginning Wednesday when they welcome the Rockets to The Q. The Wine and Gold will wrap up their eight-game homestand on March 2 and it’s 11 home and 11 away to close out the campaign.
While the Cavaliers ready themselves for the season’s homestretch, Cavs.com poses some questions for the second half of 2010-11 …
1. Who’s taken the lead at the point guard position and does it matter?
The first half of 2010-11 has been almost a tale of two seasons for the Cavaliers point guards.
Mo continued as the starter, running off a career-high five straight double-doubles in a late December stretch. And in 32 starts from November through mid-January, averaged 13.7 points and 7.2 assists per.
But nagging hip and groin injuries caught up with Mo, and while he was sidelined, Ramon Sessions stepped in strongly – averaging 15.8 points and 8.6 assists in his last 11 starts before the break.
Before the break, both guards contributed largely in victories. In Mo’s first game back against the Clippers, he doubled-up with 17 points and 14 assists, propelling the Cavs to their first win in a month-and-a-half. Less than a week later, Sessions scored 32 points off the bench in relief of an injured Williams, helping Cleveland top the Champs.
What does all that mumbo-jumbo mean? It means, at one position, Byron Scott has an excellent problem to have. He has two solid points who have completely different styles. And if everyone’s healthy, Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks will give both a workout on Wednesday night.
2. Which Cavaliers team finished the first half: the one that lost to the Wizards or the one that beat the Lakers?
Maybe that question is a little unfair. How about “the one that beat the Clippers?”
Yes, the Cavs aren’t the first team to beat, or get beaten by, both Finals teams in a single season. But considering the events that unfolded between opening night and the night before the All-Star Break, it’s a little mystifying.
Luckily, the Cavaliers will continue along with four more at home – hopefully using some of that juice from the Lakers victory (and a few days’ rest) to start the second half strong.
3. Which J.J. Hickson will we see in the final 26 games?
Now this is a legitimate question for the second half.
Hickson butted heads with Byron Scott early (and lost) and finished the first half as a beast – netting five straight double-doubles including a man-sized performance over the Slam Dunk Champ and 13 points and 15 points against the All-Star Game MVP’s squad.
After averaging just 9.1 points and just 4.9 boards per contest in 14 frustrating games off the bench earlier in the season, J.J. doubled-up ten times in his last 14 games – averaging 16.2 points and 12.4 rebounds over that span. In his last five games before the break, he averaged 6.8 offensive rebounds per game – best in the NBA during that stretch
Hickson has played out of position most of the year, but has found a niche headed to the second half. Like Cleveland’s point guards, he’ll get tested early again with an active, and undersized, Rockets frontcourt on Wednesday.
4. What’s in store for Miami’s return on March 29?
So many things have changed since the December 2 return of LeBron.
By March 29, both clubs will have bigger fish to fry, looking more to the future than the past. But the Cavaliers proved – knocking off the World Champs – that on any given night, they can roll with any given opponent. Until last Wednesday, it's not certain the team honestly believed that.
The end of March is a long way away and who knows what both teams will look like at that point. (Both could look different by the end of the week.)
But it seems like Cavalier fans have found a certain peace since December 2nd’s matchup. In five weeks, let’s see if they keep it.
5. What will we see from Christian Eyenga in the second half?
The beautiful part of the last question is that we have no idea. But we know it’ll be fun to watch.
Cavalier players talk about the human highlight reel that Eyenga is every day in practice. And fans are starting to see the passion he plays with. Already one of the top overall athletes in the league, the raw rookie just needs to harness his talents and energy in the final 26 games of the season.
This spring, the Cavaliers won’t be making playoff plans for May, but they will be looking towards the future. And a player like Eyenga could be one of the league’s hidden gems of the second stanza.
Tune in Wednesday to find out.