For the Cavs, the spotlight shifts from All-Star weekend to playoff push
The Cavaliers return from the All-Star break near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They're 35-23 heading into Thursday night's game in Detroit.
The team is likely still riding a buzz from All-Star weekend, in which four players took part in the festivities. Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley won the Skills Competition. Mobley and Issac Okoro played in the Rising Stars game. And, Garland and Allen played in the All-Star game. That's in addition to taking part in interviews and autograph signing sessions throughout the weekend.
"We haven't won anything yet"
Now, sports commentator Terry Pluto says the real work begins. He says the young team must get right back to business after a whirlwind of a weekend.
"It was almost like they won the title. Not quite to that extent, but it certainly did give these players a taste of, 'If you guys continue to play well, this is how it could be for you here," Pluto said.
Pluto says the team has had its issues with staying focused.
"The Cavaliers are a defensive team. They play hard and rebound. And about a month ago, coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he saw slippage in that."
Pluto said Bickerstaff had a "We haven't won anything yet meeting" with the team. "And my guess is, he may have to have that meeting again," Pluto said.
"With these guys ... Every game feels like playoff game now."Terry Pluto
A young, defensive force
Pluto said the remarkable thing about the four players that represented the Cavsduring All-Star weekend is that they're 23 years old and younger.
"Along with their youth is that three of the four specialize in defense. That's what got them there. These young guys helped the Cavs come out of no where and not only become the toast of the town but really the talk of the NBA during the All-Star break," he said.
Pluto notes that the Cavs are ranked fourth in the NBA now. "Last year they ranked 27th. The previous two years — there's only 30 teams — they ranked either 29th or 30th. They went from awful to really good and that's enabled them to win a lot of games that people didn't figure they'd win. Nobody figured they'd be a top-5 or top-10 team," Pluto said.
How does Caris LeVert fit in?
Before the All-Star break, the Cavs acquired 6-foot-6 guard Caris LeVert in a trade to help fill the gaps left when Ricky Rubio went down with a season-ending knee injury in January. Pluto says it will take some time for him to adjust with the team.
"They want another Rubio even if he doesn't play the same way. In Indiana, LeVert was expected to score a lot. But here, this isn't about one guy scoring a ton of points. He has a little bit of that in his game. We'll see how he fits in, but it's a really good move," Pluto said.
Every game matters
Pluto says what's most exciting about the season is that the Cavs have been competitive every game. "You don't sit there and say, 'Boy, these guys have checked out,'" Pluto said.
And he says the team is playing to win every game.
"When you have LeBron, everything is focused on the playoffs. The regular season almost feels meaningless, you're just winning enough games to get to the playoffs. With these guys, it's not. Every game feels like playoff game now."
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