The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to win roughly half of their games in 2013-14.
Following a 93-92 victory over the previously undefeated Minnesota Timberwolves, the Cavs moved to 2-2 on the season.
With victories over Minnesota and the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland has now defeated two teams who are likely to qualify for the 2014 playoffs.
After finishing 30th in the league in opponent field-goal percentage last year, Mike Brown has also helped the Cavaliers to an improved mark of 40.5 percent through four games. That defensive percentage is good for sixth in the NBA overall.
Kyrie Irving is averaging nearly a full assist more per game (6.8) and Andrew Bynum just recorded 10 points and four rebounds during 18 minutes of work on November 4.
If this was the narrative Cavs fans chose to embrace heading into Game No. 5 they wouldn't necessarily be wrong.
At the same time, however, it's also true that the No. 1 overall pick hasn't made a professional field-goal yet, Dion Waiters has used 48 shots to score 38 points and Irving just committed nine turnovers in one game while averaging 15.3 points on the year.
But while I'll need at least 15 games to make a reasonable assessment of what this Cavs team can eventually become, I did include a collection of play-by-play reactions in summary of last night's win.
Chronology of Reactions – Cavs / Timberwolves:
1Q (6:53) – Kyrie Irving knocks down a three-pointer after collecting an offensive rebound: 'When Irving comes out aggressive like this early, everything opens up offensively for the Cavs.'
1Q (5:30) – Irving hits 8' floater to give Cavs 19-17 lead: 'Kyrie has seven points already, he's going to have a monster game. Probably 30 at least.'
1Q (4:14) – Bynum subs in for Anderson Varejao: 'Bynum is the biggest person I've ever seen. He makes Pekovic look like an undersized power forward.'
1Q (2:16) – Bynum buries an 11-foot hook shot off an Irving feed: 'Somewhere, Brad Daugherty is smiling about that shot. Assuming Brad Daugherty still likes basketball.'
End of 1st Quarter – Cavs lead 31-23: 'Cavs are establishing themselves on the glass (11-5 advantage). Bynum is so big. Earl Clark is somehow 3-of-4 for six points. Kevin Martin though, yikes, has 13 already. This isn't going well for Waiters.'
The Cavs would win the rebounding battle 49-43 for the game. Earl Clark finished with six points. Kevin Martin posted a game-high 23.
2Q (10:15) – C.J. Miles buries a three to make the score 34-25: 'Tweet out Mas Fresco is Spanish for instant offense. No wait don't that's lame. Miles is so good this year though.'
2Q (7:59) – Miles dunks with two hands in traffic: 'It'll probably be C.J. Miles, Jamal Crawford and maybe Tyreke as the top three Sixth Man of the Year candidates heading into the last month of the season.'
2Q (6:32) – Tristan Thompson subs in for Anthony Bennett: 'Bennett hasn't made a field goal yet. Up 12 points here, I would just run five straight plays for AB until he gets one to fall. Once that first shot goes he'll be okay.'
The first made field goal of Bennett's NBA career would not fall on Monday. He is now 0-15 on the year.
2Q (0:51) – Tyler Zeller checks in for Thompson: 'Zeller is getting those go get our starter so he doesn't pick up a late foul before halftime minutes now. That's a tough break.'
Zeller would log 51 seconds total for the game.
End of First Half – Cavs lead 55-38: 'Kyrie Irving has nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. He will definitely get his first career triple-double tonight. The only problem will be that Cleveland's lead will be so big Irving will probably not play the entire fourth quarter and miss out on the triple-double as a result.'
3Q (9:46) – Thompson buries 13-foot jumper: 'Thompson is so good at shooting jumpers now. He needs a McDonald's commercial playing horse like that one with Bird and Jordan back in the day. He'll probably have power forwards all over the league switching hands next year to keep up with his shooting efficiency.'
3Q (8:00) – Waiters hits 12-foot jumper: 'Nice, maybe that's what he needs to get going.'
3Q (6:15) – Waiters misses 23-footer: 'Bummer, Waiters never got it going.'
Waiters finished with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in only 20 minutes of work. He played the sixth most minutes of any Cavalier despite starting at shooting guard.
3Q (3:29) – Bynum checks in for Waiters: 'You can clearly hear quakes of thunder inside the Q when Bynum walks onto the court. He's so big.'
Bynum totaled 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting which included a 12-foot jumper. He'd say after the game that he has, "Always had nice shooting touch and a nice jumper. He has just never been in a system that allowed him to take that shot before."
End of 3rd Quarter – Cavs lead 76-61: 'Not the best quarter but you're still up 15. Man, didn't notice Thompson had six turnovers in the first half. He will need to hit that inbounds pass station hard at practice tomorrow.'
Thompson would minimize the turnover damage by finishing with six for the game. He also posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
4Q (5:08) – Miles hits three to make score 91-75: 'Miles is definitely better than Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee. Can't believe that was a competition during training camp. You probably want to keep bringing his firepower off bench with second unit though as opposed to starting him.'
Miles finished with a team-high 19 points in only 18 minutes to go along with five rebounds.
4Q (4:15) – Gee misses wide-open layup with Cavs leading 91-78: 'I have no idea how he missed that.'
Gee finished with nine points and six rebounds in 34 minutes of work. Only Tristan Thompson (37 minutes) spent more time on the court than Gee in a Cavs uniform.
4Q (1:56) – Offensive foul on Irving away from ball while leading 93-88: 'I get the whole idea of Irving playing off the ball at times. But to ask a guy who has never really operated out of the post to do so during crunch time as your primary way to initiate offense is kind of asking a lot.'
4Q (0:15) – Irving misses jumper while leading 93-92: 'Really can't waive off the screener twice unless you are going to definitely beat J.J. Barea one of those two times.'
Irving finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists on 7-of-15 shooting.
4Q (0:01) – Love misses final jumper: 'Cavs win with defensive stop, I'll take it.'
Love finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds on 8-of-20 from the field.
Mike Brown Postgame:
After the game, I asked Mike Brown what play he drew up for those final two possessions where Irving waived off the screener. He said that they were "trying to get Kevin Love in the pick-and-roll" before Irving waived off Varejao. Brown also added that he "is going to put the ball in his best player's hands in that situation and let him make a play", which is difficult to argue with.
I would have preferred Irving to accept that second screen myself, but I also think you want to let a superstar like Irving be himself when the game is on the line and grow from those experiences.
Brown also said, “I thought there were a lot of good things in the ball game. It’s great that we got a win. Obviously, we still have to figure out how to close out games the right way on both ends of the floor. The bottom line is we had to get a stop to win it and our guys managed to get a stop."
Which is totally true regardless of what your reaction is as a Cavs fan to last night's game. Let the winning streak begin.
Photo Credit: MARK DUNCAN / AP