Team on the Rise
Cleveland — Where were the Cavaliers going to go but up after LeBron left? After all, reason said they were obviously going to be at the bottom of the conference upon the King's exit.
No doubt LeBron James' departure is going to take a while to recover from, and an inconsistent Cavs squad will head out there in the early going. That was evident when the team shocked Boston in its opener then got blown out 101-81 by a terrible Toronto team two nights later.
Cleveland dropped two more — a three-pointer to Sacramento and a 12-pointer to Atlanta before reeling off road wins against Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey. The Cavs get the Nets again tonight for the start of a three-game homestand that also includes Indiana and Philly.
What was a 1-3 start could turn into a 7-3 record before Cleveland travels to New Orleans and San Antonio for a back to back beginning Nov. 19.
The return of Mo Williams (16 ppg), pictured left, from a groin injury has certainly sparked the Cavs, as has Daniel Gibson (14.9 ppg) to give the team a solid backcourt. Cleveland should also get help from Antawn Jamison, who missed all of last week with a sore knee but came in to score 15 off the bench in a win over New Jersey Tuesday.
Team on the Decline
Miami — I know, I know. No need to push the panic button just yet, but the Heat have proven nothing so far.
Offensively, it is the LeBron and Dwyane Wade show while everyone else watches. Outside of the league-leading 24 3-pointers James Jones has knocked down, there's not been much else from the Heat. And even Jones' role is: See spot on floor. Go to spot on floor. Wait for ball. Shoot ball.
Miami blew a 22-point lead against Utah Tuesday in an overtime loss at home. The Heat did so with Jazz post presence Al Jefferson basically being nonexistent and PG Deron Williams fouling out late in the fourth. In the overtime session only Wade performed for Miami — scoring all 10 points.
Defensively, Miami was scorched for 56 points in the paint — almost 20 above its average allowed. The Heat have one signature win so far — a 96-70 dismantling of Orlando in game three of the season — but have lost to the other three playoff teams they have played so far (88-80 to Boston, 96-93 to New Orleans and 116-114 to Utah).
Eddie House was quoted as saying maybe the Heat got "bored" when they were up by so much.
There is no rest for those on the decline as Miami takes on Boston Thursday night. Perhaps the Heat won't be as bored going up against Rajon Rondo and the other Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Numbers to Know
54 — The Indiana Pacers entered Tuesday night's game against visiting Denver coming off a second half in which they scored just 30 in a loss to Milwaukee. Talk about a turnaround. Indiana exploded for 54 points in the third quarter of its 144-113 win against the Nuggets — the most in a single quarter since Phoenix scored 57 in the second quarter of a Nov. 10, 1990 contest, according to Elias.
9 — Miami's LeBron James recorded his first triple double as a member of the Heat when he put up 20 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in a loss to Utah. It was James' 29th career triple double, but just the ninth in the 22-year history of the Heat and first since Shaq got one in April 2006.
11 — The Knicks were blown out by 27 against the Bucks Tuesday night, marking the 11th time New York has lost by 25 or more in the 171 games under coach Mike D'Antoni. It happened to D'Antoni just six times in 389 games when he coached Phoenix, according to Elias.
Beyond the Arc
Plenty of time to get better: The Indiana Pacers were slated to be in the "Team on the Decline" spot before Tuesday night's 144-point eruption. The Pacers' shooting percentages were poor, as was their tempo — scoring 82.5 a game and shooting just 35 percent their last two games. Perhaps Indiana is finally doing something with its time off. The team is in the middle of a five-game stretch that lasts a ridiculous 13 days. Before the 144-point game, the Pacers last played on Friday, and they don't play again this week until a Friday tilt at home against Houston.
Someone has to win: Charlotte is at Toronto tonight in a game in which the two teams have combined to lose their last eight — Toronto five in a row and Charlotte three. The Bobcats have the worst scoring offense at 89.9 points a game, while the Raptors are eighth-worst in the league in allowing 104.1 a game.
Rematch: The Bucks were ousted in last year's playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks and come back to Atlanta with a little momentum tonight. Milwaukee blew out the Knicks Tuesday, fell by six to undefeated New Orleans, defeated Indiana by four and lost to Boston in OT. Meanwhile, Atlanta, which started off 6-0 before losing its last two, has defeated only one playoff team — a LeBron-less Cavaliers squad — this season.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter