Thoughts on the Cavaliers' 92-85 loss at Miami on Tuesday:
"That's more like it." That's likely how Cavs fans felt after watching their discomforting defeats over the weekend then witnessing how Cleveland fought to the finish against LeBron James and the Heat. Perhaps what Cavs forward Antawn Jamison said at practice Monday is true: "Last year is last year."
In other words, maybe fans can finally get over fretting whether there is another long and unbearable losing streak on the way. This Cavs team, it appears, is competitive and watchable.
OK, I agree. The Cavs weren't exactly a sight to behold against the Heat. They committed 20 turnovers and are leaving themselves open to question about whether there are more than two guys on the team who can make a fundamental pass.
Actually, a fundamental pass isn't the issue. It's the forced ones that often result in dumb mistakes.
As rookie guard Kyrie Irving (17 points, four assists) said, "We have to make simple plays and cherish the basketball. Turnovers lose games for us."
It's true. If the Cavs had just held on to the ball, they likely would have pulled the upset even if they didn't score another single point. All those turnovers lead to easy scoring opportunities for opponents.
Of course, it's not like the Heat put on a ball-handling clinic themselves. Their biggest problem in this season of championship expectations also has been taking care of the ball. A more experienced team probably would have blown them out of the gym Tuesday.
As for that LeBron guy, he wasn't his usual superstar self, finishing with 18 points on eight-for-21 shooting. He still looks uncomfortable and timid with his back to the basket despite spending much of the offseason on the low block and learning from former Houston Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon.
Speaking of LeBron, my favorite thing about this game was the feeling I got that Cavs fans are placing less of their focus on despising James and more on caring about their own team. That made this a basketball game that real fans could appreciate, as opposed to a pointless hate-fest.
Samardo Samuels came off the bench and gave the Cavs physical play and energy, which was key since Cleveland was without rookie Tristan Thompson (ankle). Samuels made his first six shots and finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Without him, this wouldn't have been nearly as close.
I thought for sure Irving was due for an off night. But while he took just four shots in the first half Tuesday for two points, he was outstanding in the final two quarters, with his crossover move on poor Heat rookie Norris Cole (Cleveland State) making the highlight reels. Irving's been fantastic in every game except maybe the two losses to Toronto.
More importantly, Irving kept his team in the game, as he's so often able to do when all else seems lost. The kid just seems like a natural-born winner.
Meanwhile, I wrote a few stories on Cole last season when he was with the Vikings, and I can tell you he's a polite and level-headed kid who appreciates playing in the NBA. The Cavs scouted him on a few occasions, and both GM Chris Grant and vice president of basketball operations David Griffin left impressed with the total package. So far, Cole has not disappointed.
On a down note, Jamison just hasn't been himself lately, and the Cavs need him to return to form or the losses are likely to continue. Jamison is averaging 20.3 points in the Cavs' six wins, but just 12.6 per game in defeat. In the past three games, he's scored four, 10 and five points, and made just six of 24 shots.
The Knicks are in town Wednesday night, and yes, they are one of the teams the Cavs could be battling for an actual playoff spot. That might sound weird, considering the Knicks have big names like Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler on the roster. Don't be surprised if we see old friend (well, acquaintance) Baron Davis make his Knicks debut. If so, he'll probably get a standing O.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. Also, I'll have some news and notes from around the league on the "Cavaliers Live" pregame show at 6:30 on FOX Sports Ohio.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO