Coming into Wednesday night's game in Sacramento, the Cleveland Cavaliers had been playing like they were in the midst of another 26-game losing streak.
But there won't be any more 26-game losing streaks this season - for three reasons:
1.) The NBA went 64 years without a team losing 26 games in a row, so the odds of it happening twice within a few months is very unlikely.
2.) There aren't even 26 games left in the regular season, although it feels like this season will never end. The Cavs entered the Kings game with a four-game losing streak, with 17 games left . . . so the best they could've done was a 21-game losing streak.
2a.) I suppose it could've continued into next year, permitting 26 losses in a row. That would count; Cleveland lost 24 games in a row over two seasons back in the '80s during the Ted Stepien era. (That, by the way, stands alone as the second-worst losing streak in NBA history. Go Cavs!) But since I believe the worst is over, I refuse to carry any of the dark shadows from this season into 2011-2012.
3.) The Cavs won in Sacramento. They played well. And it was a good game.
Of course, the definition of "good game" is sort of elusive when referring to the Cavaliers at this point. Had this game happened last year or the year before, it may very well be the sloppiest, worst game of the whole season. (Not counting last year's playoffs, of course.)
The Cavs won 97-93 . . . and it went down to the wire. (Which, again, seems great in theory, but it was probably one of the least-riveting "down to the wire" games in the NBA this season.)
So at this point, is a win alone good enough to declare a "good game"? Well, not really. Here's how I look at it:
Cleveland needs losses to maximize their lottery chances . . . their best players, Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison, are out for the season . . . they traded away Mo Williams for a draft pick . . . the two best players (arguably) that arrived in their deadline deals (Baron Davis / Semih Erden) aren't currently playing . . . and honestly, we don't know if any of the players that are on the floor now will be around beyond the remaining games of this season.
So I consider a "good game" one in which the players I want to be back play well. So here's my take on this game:
Players I Want Back
Ramon Sessions: After being in a funk ever since the Cavs received Baron (regardless of whether or not B.D. was even playing), Ramon broke free in a major way in Sacramento. He had 20 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) with six assists, five rebounds and a steal.
He was getting to the hoop at will, even late in the game when the Kings had to know it was coming because Ramon was the only thing the Cavs' offense had going. And it wasn't just to get his own shot. He did a lot of creating by pushing the ball up the court and into the paint. He also had his jumper working. If nothing else, this game was worth the relief I felt to see Ramon back in his "nearly unstoppable" mode.
J.J. Hickson: J.J. was good, not great. He had a few nice plays, and showed some hustle . . . but most importantly, he didn't shoot himself in the foot. He finished with a somewhat quiet 17 points (on 6-of-12 shooting) with eight rebounds and a block. He got to the line 10 times, but only converted five of them.
Luke Harangody: Luke is becoming a favorite of mine. This guy has some of that unique, Varejao-like gene that allows him to play in non-stop turbo mode, without sapping his energy bar. But unlike Andy, Harangody can suddenly rein himself in for a smooth stop-and-pop shot. It looks a little weird, but it goes in. He even hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first half.
Harangody was the most productive player off the bench, scoring 15 points (on 6-of-12 shooting) with eight rebounds and two blocks. Twice he stopped a shot by slapping his mitt on the ball and forcing a jump-ball whistle. Unfortunately, he lost them both, but it's the effort that counts.
Samardo Samuels: Two months ago, if you would've told me that Samardo would be on my shortlist of players I'd want to have back in a Cavs uniform, I would've asked if you were Samardo, in disguise.
The guy really uses his body, and makes his presence felt in the paint. But at the same time, he can show a lot of control and agility around the basket, and isn't afraid to take a charge. Against the Kings, he had 13 points (on 5-of-11 shooting) with three rebounds and a steal. Like J.J., he also had trouble from the stripe, only making three of his six attempts.
Daniel Gibson: I'm a big Boobie guy, but aside from a brief scoring spurt at the beginning of the second quarter, this game wasn't anything special for him. Eight points, one assist.
Players I Think I Want Back
Manny Harris: He ran the length of the floor for a bucket in the second quarter, but otherwise he wasn't on my radar much in this one. He came away with seven points and no assists.
Christian Eyenga: He played 20 minutes. I only remember noticing him once. At this point, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Anthony Parker: A very solid game from AP; five points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He also led the team in plus/minus with +11.
Players I Don't Really Want Back
Ryan Hollins: Two points, four rebounds, three turnovers, got under the Kings' skin.
Alonzo Gee: Eight points, four rebounds, two turnovers.
Bottom line: It was a "good game." Give the Cavaliers credit for this one. It wasn't pretty; they booted a lot of opporunities, literally; and the defense was bad; but they didn't give up, and battled back from several decficts to stay with the Kings, and ultimately defeat them.