CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers overcame a 15-point deficit to beat the LA Clippers 118-113 in overtime Friday, extending their season-best win streak to four games and improving to 9-7, the first time they’ve been two games over .500 since their 3-1 start.
The streak puts the Cavs back into the playoff picture. If the season was to end today, Cleveland would be the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, a four-game win streak pales in comparison to what the East’s No. 1 team, the Boston Celtics, are up to. Boston beat the defending champion Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday to extend their winning streak to 14 games, improving their overall record to 14-2.
The Celtics are being led by Kyrie Irving, of course. Following the Cavs’ win over the Clippers, LeBron James was asked about what his old teammate is doing over in Beantown and was not very interested in opining on the Celtics’ hot start.
“Huh?” James said after putting up 39 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 turnovers in 46 minutes against the Clippers. “You want me to comment on that? Nah. I’ve got too much to worry about around here right now trying to get our ship going in the right direction. I watched the game [Thursday] night. It was an Eastern Conference game. There’s not many times you see Golden State not going in the 120s. Boston just had a good tempo about the game. Neither team could really make those shots. It was a free throw game in the fourth quarter. But I’m not going to … I don’t pay attention to too much of what’s going on besides their record and things they’ve been doing. But they’re playing some good ball right now.”
One of the Celtics’ two losses came against the Cavs 102-99 on opening night in a game marred by Gordon Hayward‘s gruesome season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter. After that game, however, Cleveland stumbled, losing four games in a row — with several of the losses coming against teams picked to finish near the bottom of the conference.
In the month that has passed since opening night, the narrative surrounding the Cavs has shifted from them being a deep collection of talent that will be a shoe-in for a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance to an aging, flawed roster that could struggle all year long.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry went as far as to say that the Celtics are the favorite to represent the East in the Finals this year.
“It’s very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East, and obviously, until they beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row — so we’ll see, but I hear the weather is great here in June.”
James was unaffected by any talk doubting his team.
“Listen, man, at the end of the day we’ve got to show up as professionals and be the best we can be every night,” James said. “Me, you know, I could care less what people say. I’m so far beyond that. I don’t care what people say. At the end of the day, we’ve got to show up and be as great as we can be for this team right now. We’re playing good ball, and we’re going to continue that.”
To back up his point, James called out to his two sons who were in the Cavs’ postgame locker room to ask them if anybody paid attention to criticism about their dad in the James household. LeBron Jr., 13, responded to the question incredulously. “What?!” he said. Bryce, 10, was more subdued but just as dismissive. “Nah, son,” he said.
Dwyane Wade said that the comebacks the Cavs have made are just part of the team’s makeup. When the game is up and down in the early going they struggle, he said. But when possessions matter more late, they shine.
“We’re a team that is built — we’re the oldest team in the league, one of the oldest teams — we’re not built for all of this,” Wade said, moving his finger back and forth to mimic teams racing up and down the court. “We’re built for when the game slows down. And late in games is when the game slows down. And that’s kind of where we are good, so that’s what we’re built for. Unfortunately, we’ve been in that position a lot. We may continue to be. But we’re definitely built for it.”
The win over the Clippers was yet another example of the Cavs needing to dig themselves out of a hole. They trailed the Hornets by eight points, the Knicks by 23 and the Mavericks by 10 on their current win streak.
“That’s how the game is being played for us at this point in the season,” James said. “It’s good to know that we’re building character and building resiliency, and you can do that with a new group, then that definitely can help us in the long run, so we can’t say that we wish we wouldn’t do that, but it is what it is. That’s the way the game is being played, and we got adjust to it.”