Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Cavaliers nip Nets 114-107

 Darius Garland scored 22 points to pair with twelve assists to lead six Cavaliers in double figures as the Cavaliers dumped the visiting Brooklyn Nets 114-107 on MLK Monday.

Isaac Okoro scored fifteen points to lead the remaining Cavaliers, who travel to Chicago for a meeting tonight against the Bulls.

I started this and forgot about it, so I am finishing it late to order to add to the archives.

Swashbucklings

1) There was a certain feeling of the Cavaliers finally slamming a past door behind them as Darius Garland representing the future of the franchise facing Kyrie Irving, the man who more than anyone represents the duality of the franchise.

2) Irving finished with 27 points and nine assists and played well in a season (four games thus far) that he is only allowed to play in road games in certain cities due to his refusal to take the Covid-10 vaccine.

Irving will always be a polarizing figure to me as I appreciate the role he played in the only Cavaliers title and hitting the shot that nailed down game seven against Golden State.

3) However, I also blame Irving (yes, even more than LeBron James) for the rotten basketball that has been played since James left (Irving forced his trade before the final James season in Cleveland) and Irving started that ball rolling.

Irving forcing the Cavaliers to make a bad trade ( with Boston bringing Isaiah Thomas, Jade Crowder, and a New Jersey number one that was used to draft Collin Sexton), leaving the Cavaliers undermanned for the final battle with the Golden State Warriors, and hurt the Cavaliers case to keep James.

4) But it was the play of Garland, who each time that Brooklyn made a big move had an answer for the Nets.

Garland's play with controlled abandon (which I realize makes little sense)  saw him take almost every big shot down the stretch and outscored Irving eight to four in the final period.

5) I didn't see James Harden play in day-to-day action as much with his career taking place in the Western Conference until his trade to Brooklyn last season so some of his acting routine did take part off Flatbush but boy does the flopping routine get old.

Harden fell like he was hit by a rifle by Jarrett Allen on a three-point shot when replays showed that Allen never touched Harden, who was rewarded with three free throws.

6) Isaac Okoro returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench previously after his elbow injury kept him off the floor for a few weeks with the injury to Lamar Stevens.

Okoro took on Irving defensively in the fourth quarter and held him to two of seven shooting including a possession in the final two minutes where Okoro was so stuck to Irving that after several attempts to shake the second-year man, Irving was forced to dish the ball off.

Okoro was drafted as an athletic player that had the potential to be a shutdown defender and he is showing signs of maturing into a defender of that level.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Cavaliers rally past Thunder 107-102

  Darius Garland scored twenty-seven points and passed out a career-high eighteen assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from an eighteen-point third-quarter deficit to surprise the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-102 in Oklahoma City.

Garland's career evening lifted Cleveland back into the game in the third with fourteen of his twenty-seven points and eight of his eighteen assists in the third quarter alone.

Evan Mobley finished with twenty points on the evening with Jarrett Allen adding a lucky double of thirteen points and rebounds.

Cleveland's win was their fifth in six games on their Western Conference swing and improved to a 26-18 record on the season.

Cleveland returns home tomorrow for an MLK Day afternoon tilt against the Kevin Durantless Brooklyn Nets.

Swashbucklings

1) Watching this game made me think of the occasional evenings when a star player grabbed hold of a game and willed themselves to victory,

That's Darius Garland in Oklahoma City as Garland hit jumpers, drove to the hoop for scores with dishes off for easy dunks.

I'll be the first to admit that I wondered about Garland during his rookie season woes- I worry no more.

2) Evan Mobley was another player that stepped up his game in the final quarter and a half.

Mobley scored sixteen of his twenty points in the second half as the Cavaliers' top interior option.

3) Lauri Markkanen made a key shot in the Cleveland win over San Antonio and Markkanen made another in the win over Oklahoma City with a three-pointer with eleven seconds remaining to boost the Cleveland lead from one point to four points.

4) The Thunder made only four shots in the fourth quarter and scored only seventeen points as the Cavalier's commitment to an improved defensive game continues.

5)  Darius Garland became only the sixth player in Cavaliers history to score 25 points and 15 assists in a game.

The others?

LeBron James, Terrell Brandon, Andre Miller, John Johnson, and Bobby Washington.

Now the first three make a lot of sense and John Johnson was the Cavaliers' first-ever first-round pick in 1970, but Bobby Washington?

Even I had to look that name up, Washington played two games in the 1969-70 season with the ABA Kentucky Colonels and then the following two seasons in Cleveland with the Cavaliers (completing the TRS Double Play for 70s basketball) and in November 1971 against Portland, Washington accomplished the feat.

It would be his final season in basketball.

Boxing Challenge: Smith breaks down Geffrard

    Joe Smith methodically broke down late replacement Steve Geffrard and stopped Geffrard early in the ninth round to retain his WBO light heavyweight title in Verona, New York.

Geffrard did score on occasion early as Smith attacked in the first three rounds but he wasn't able to keep Smith from keeping Geffrard off the ropes, where Smith crunched Geffard to the body and pounded his arms as his answer to the high guard defense used by Geffrard.

Geffrard complained to his corner about an injury to his left arm in between the sixth and seventh round and it seemed that Geffrard had put his best into the fight and his gas tank was empty.

Smith hurt Geffard near the end of the eighth and charged out in the ninth to batter Geffarrd with a flurry of shots that were intended to land rather than land explosively and the tactic with Geffrard going to a knee in the corner with seemingly no intention of rising before trainer Kevin Cunningham signaled his approval for the fight to be stopped.

I had Smith winning every round, although Geffrard could have been given the third, so all things considered, it could have been a larger mismatch than it actually was.

Smith gets a win and some rust off his engine and hopefully, his next fight would be a unification match against WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev.

However, different sources have other fighters in that slot against Smith as Eddie Hearn is trying to get the date for Daniel Jacobs and Frank Warren has stated that Anthony Yarde has been promised the next chance at Smith, so I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Beterbiev to be next in line.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica, Vince Samano, and I all earned two points for the win.

I didn't receive a pick from C.J. Burney so no points there.

Boxing Challenge

Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano 6 pts

TRS 5 pts

C.J.Burney 4 pts


 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Cavaliers slide by Spurs 114-109

 Darius Garland scored 32 points and Jarrett Allen added 17 points and 16 rebounds to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-109 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio.

Evan Mobley finished with fifteen points as the top scorer of the remainder of the lineup as Cleveland improved to 25-18 on the season.

The Cavaliers travel to Oklahoma City Saturday night to finish their road trip against the Thunder and will return home to host Brooklyn Monday afternoon for a Martin Luther King Day matinee'.

Swashbucklings

1) Darius Garland's 32 points were not the only superlative in this game for the Vanderbilt point guard.

Garland never left the floor in the fourth quarter and it was Garland knocking down four free throws to clinch the contest.

Garland has grown a lot in the season and a half since being graded as the league's lowest full-time player by something analytic ratings of players.

2) The Cavaliers' defense deserves some credit as well as they held the Spurs without a point in the fourth quarter from the 6:04 mark until a free throw from Lonnie Walker with 59 seconds remaining.

3) Underrated play of the night: Lauri Markkanen's drive from the lane for an authoritative slam to move the Cavaliers lead to three points with a little over two minutes to go.

The Spurs were in the middle of the noted above scoring drought but the Cavaliers were in one as well.

Markkanen's putting the ball on the floor for the resulting slam woke the Cavalier offense up as they began to move towards the basket, adding a Jarrett Allen dunk on the next possession and drawing a foul on a Darius Garland drive on the following possession.

4) Isaac Okoro returned to the lineup from an elbow sprain.

J.B. Bickerstaff didn't start Okoro, who scored six points in sixteen minutes of floor time.

5)  The game really shouldn't have been that close as the Cavaliers missed ten free throws on the night (they made fourteen), the Spurs aren't a very good team so the door was open to win a game on a night like this- that is unlikely to happen against good teams.

6) I watched the game on the Spurs feed, so I could listen to Bill Land call the game on their network.

Can it really be going on thirty years ago watching VHS tapes sent to me with the now-extinct Southwest Conference games with Land at the microphone?

7) The Spurs wore their alternate uniforms and their court and I'm not a fan as it's based on their 90s versions with lots of blues and bright colors of the era.

The Spurs uniforms are classic in their simplicity and the 90s versions added unneeded colors to the palette.  

PPM

  The PPM moves to the postseason after I for some reason forgot the PPM for the final week of the NFL regular season.

Last Week: 8-4 
Overall: 155-93

NFL Playoffs

AFC
Chiefs over Steelers 37-17
Bills over Patriots 24-20
Bengals over Raiders 31-28

NFC
Buccaneers over Eagles 32-14
Cowboys over 49ers 31-28
Rams over Cardinals 28-21 

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing challenge is sparse this weekend as January always starts slow in the boxing world following the holidays and with the latest Covid swarm hitting sports as hard as it hits the rest of the world, the slate has been even weaker than usual.

The only fight in the challenge comes from ESPN and Top Rank as Joe Smith defends his WBO light heavyweight championship for the first time against last-minute replacement Steve Geffrard in Verona, New York.

Smith won a debatable majority decision over Maxim Vlasov  ( I scored Vlasov a 115-113 winner) to win the vacant title last April and has had a few fights canceled for various reasons since.

Smith is best known for his power which has brutally stopped former WBO champion Elieder Alvarez, former title challenger Andrej Fonfara, and ended the career of all-time Bernard Hopkins but he was outboxed badly in his losses to WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in 2019 and to then-contender Sullivan Barrera in 2017 before his issues with the awkward Vlasov.

Smith's original opponent would have made a very interesting matchup in Great Britain's Callum Johnson, an aggressive hard-hitting bomber that floored WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev in the second round in their 2018 battle before Beterbiev finished Johnson off in the fourth.

Instead, due to Covid, we get an extremely last-minute replacement in Steve Geffrard, who has won eighteen straight since losing his first two pro fights but other than an eight-round decision win over aging former fringe contender Denis Grachev, has defeated no one of note.

Geffrard is a complete unknown in what he brings to the table against Smith, who hits as hard as anyone light heavyweight other than Artur Beterbiev and a sturdy chin to boot, and based on the resume is overmatched.

Still, Geffrard has a good amateur background and as Smith showed in his past defeats, Smith can be outboxed.

The question is can Geffrard take that punch well and if so, does he has enough skills to outbox Smith?

I'd say no, but there just isn't enough data on Geffrard to really know. 

R.L: Smith KO 7  
TRS: Smith KO 3 
V.S: Smith KO 6
C.J: 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Cavaliers club Jazz 111-91

   The Cleveland Cavaliers received double-digit points from all five starters with a surprising leader as Lamar Stevens scored a career-high 23 points as Cleveland defeated the depleted Utah Jazz 111-91 in Salt Lake City.

Lauri Markkanen finished with twenty points with Darius Garland picking up his first career triple-double ( 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists) to help Stevens in the Cavalier victory.

Cleveland will visit San Antonio Friday night before finishing their six-game road trip Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

Swashbucklings

1) Before the game, the Cavaliers announced that general manager Koby Altman's contract had been extended through 2027 and added the title of director of basketball operations to his business card.

Altman had his share of struggles in his first few seasons as general manager but has done a very good job over the last year in his reshaping of the Cavaliers roster.

Some of that was fortunate breaks such as Detroit and Houston taking Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green (especially Houston!) over Evan Mobley but part of being a quality personnel evaluator is being lucky enough to have players available in the draft that shouldn't be and then being smart enough to take them when they fall and his trades over the past year to land Jarrett Allen, Ricky Rubio and a sign and trade for Lauri Markkanen have been positives.

Maybe you could argue that half a season of strong play isn't enough to extend Altman right now but Altman only has one year remaining on his contract and the Cleveland thinking is likely to take speculation off the table for the next year and a half to give the franchise some stability.

2) Lamar Stevens's twenty-three points led the team and Stevens scored the first thirteen points for Cleveland in the second half.

Stevens is a player that I've liked since Cleveland signed him last season, he'll be a role player at best over his career but role players that do one or two things well have no problems finding employment and can have long careers.

3) Utah was at a major disadvantage in this game as the Jazz were missing all three of their centers (including Rudy Gobert) due to Covid-protocol and dressed only eleven players.

Utah used 6'5 Royce O'Neale at center in desperation, hoping that O'Neale's quickness would help at least somewhat against the taller Cavalier big men and O'Neale did finish with nine rebounds to lead the Jazz in that department.

Cleveland's clear game plan was to bang the ball to their big men to use their height advantage and it worked as their three frontcourt starters finished with 49 points and 23 rebounds.

4) Utah finished the game with only ten players after starter Joe Ingles drew a technical foul in the first quarter after an elbow to the head of Jarrett Allen and a second in the second quarter for a referee beef.

Ingles had missed four games in Covid protocol and lasted thirteen minutes in his return.

5) Darius Garland's triple-double was the first of his career and the first for a Cavalier since Kyrie Irving's three stat stuffer back in 2014.

6) The Cavaliers slammed this one in the win column early in the third quarter with a chunk of the thirteen-point streak of Lamar Stevens part of a 21-0 run to leave the Jazz in the dust with Cleveland leading by 25!

7) Rajan Rondo missed the game with a tight hamstring and Denzel Valentine, who was the player that Cleveland traded to acquire Rondo, made his debut with the Jazz.

Valentine would score five points in seventeen minutes of playing time.

8) As for Rondo, he was listed as questionable entering the game and some of this could be maintenance for Rondo, who has seen a significant increase in his minutes since arriving in Cleveland and the signing of Brandon Goodwin to a two-way contract can occasionally allow Rondo to rest up.