Without Kyrie Irving (and “just” LeBron James and Kevin Love on the floor) the Cleveland Cavaliers were good or maybe very good, and good enough to lead the East. Now that Irving is back after more than six months of rehabbing from his knee injury, we can finally see if the Cavs are truly capable of competing with a historic looking Golden State Warriors.
Irving scored 12 points in his comeback game, which against the Philadelphia 76ers doesn’t mean much. The Cavaliers, facing the worst team in the league for the third time this season, put the game to bed in the second quarter, going on a 34-13 run to cap off a 108-86 win, their fifth in a row, improving to 18-7, giving them a 2.5 lead in the East over the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. James led the way with 23 points.
It would be great to get some sort of indication about where Irving is right now and how it makes the Cavaliers play but frankly, the 76ers are so terrible, losing their games by an average of 13.2 points (Los Angeles Lakers only other team with a scoring difference in the negative double figures), it’s impossible to gauge anything or anyone playing against them. Irving had sharp moments and had rusty moments, but in 17 minutes against a nobody opponent, we’ll leave the verdict to a few other games.
But the biggest news from Irving returning is that the Cavaliers are 100% healthy for the first time since last season, before Kevin Love went down with an injury in the postseason against the Boston Celtics. The return of Iman Shumpert from his short injury (came back earlier from the longer one) means that we’ll no longer here about a team missing its key players. The Cavaliers do have a little bit of a grace period, which includes their visit to the Bay Area on Christmas to play the Warriors.
How does this end? It’s difficult seeing anyone in the East slowing down the Cavaliers. They’re just too good, too deep, too LeBron James, not to mention his two All-Star’ish teammates, whether they get selected or not by the fans or David Blatt himself. This season they don’t seem to be chasing anyone like they did with the Hawks last year. It’s all about beating up the conference to finish first and then rest, while always keeping an eye on the Warriors, in order to make that comparison from time to time.