A.C. Blog: Call of the West

Mr. Cavalier Checks in from the West Coast
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor

A.C. Blog: Call of the West

Mr. Cavalier Checks in from the West Coast

Hello to everyone back in Cleveland! It’s AC, checking in from the West Coast and the Cavs’ longest trip of the year.

With March 7 being the anniversary, a lot of people have been asking me about the 61-point game against OU back in 1970.

It was a game that we HAD to win because Notre Dame had no conference. It was a tournament game, and if we wanted to go onto the next round, we had to win the game -- and that was our focus. Our coach, Johnny Dee, didn’t say anything specific to me that day. He's just sort of kept it generic – let me know that I have to have a good game for us to win. No pressure …

I probably knew about midway through the first half that I was feeling it, because the ball just felt great. And I was just pulling up and knocking them down, but also when I was driving, I was able to get to the basket – it was like it was a clear path I could see.

But it was about halfway through that first half that I thought: “It’s on now.”

I had felt that good in games before, I just never had the opportunity to get as many shots as quickly as I did that day. Ohio kept adjusting their defense to me, but to be honest, once I got going it didn’t make a difference. They tried the box-and-1 and triangle-and-2. But everything just felt open that particular day.

Guys didn’t say anything to me that day. The guys on OU were quiet as a mouse – they didn’t say a word. They just shook my hand after it was over and we walked off the court.

I remember Coach Dee said to me with about two minutes to play: ‘If you’re gonna break the record, you better do it quick because I’m about to take you out of the game.’ He didn’t want to be accused of piling on.

The fact that the record still stands after all these years is actually a surreal feeling, because I figured by now someone would’ve broken it. Bill Bradley probably felt the same when I broke his record. But it’s been almost 50 years now and it’s still around, but somebody’s going to come around – some prolific scorer – to break it. I remember David Robinson had, I think, 30 at halftime in one game. But think about: that means you have to have another 30-point half. It’s not easy.

I think I got 52 against Kentucky in the next game. They had a bunch of guys who were going pro – Dan Issel, Mike Pratt, Larry Steele – and they tried everything defensively. I was just on a roll. Adolph Rupp was not to happy.

But we lost the game and our season was over – and really that was all that mattered.

The Wine & Gold celebrate following their 113-108 victory on Wednesday in Denver to begin their road trip.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Changing gears, let’s talk Cavaliers and this very important road trip upon us.

With a team that’s still getting to know each other, this trip is perfect – even if it comes with less than 20 games to go. The team will get a chance to focus a little bit better. When you’re on the road, it’s more of a galvanizing situation. And in the games they’ve played together – for the most part, they’ve played better on the road.

The second unit is slightly out of whack with Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood moving to the starting lineup. Larry was a big part of that unit. And Cedi is a different style of player, so it’ll be an adjustment period. The starters were just starting to understand his game; now the second unit will have to understand his game. Cedi’s a slasher, not a jump-shooter.

"I think we’re going to learn a lot about this team – and they’re going to learn a lot about themselves."

Cavaliers Legend Austin Carr

Larry was phenomenal in his starting debut against Detroit. He’s fundamentally sound and explosive at the same time. He knows how to use his body, how to put his body in position offensively and defensively. He’s always looking to make the right pass and at the same time knows when to be aggressive.

The Cavaliers will have to continue making up for their lack of bigs until Tristan and Kevin get back. It’s going to have to be a collaborative effort before then – and you saw that on Monday night at The Q.

I feel good about this trip. There are some winnable games, but there are also some locations where the Cavaliers have struggled, traditionally. And I think we’re going to learn a lot about this team – and they’re going to learn a lot about themselves – before we fly home after the Bulls game next Saturday.

I’m also celebrating my 70th birthday on this trip. People have asked me the secret of looking young. I guess it’s eating right and taking care of myself – something I sure didn’t do 20 years ago.

I’m doing it now and I feel great.

Now let’s get a few more wins under our belt on this trip.