CLEVELAND -- In the eyes of C.J. Miles, the Cavaliers have plenty for which to play.
It goes back to the entire reason you play basketball, Miles said. You want to compete.
Miles is a Cavs reserve swingman, one of the teams true veterans and a fireball of positive energy and enthusiasm. He was speaking after the Cavs 95-90 home win over Washington on Tuesday.
It was also the first game after the Cavs learned Kyrie Irving is expected to miss 3-4 weeks (or basically, the rest of the season) with a sprained shoulder.
They have 18 games left. They arent going to the playoffs. Theyre mostly young, fairly inconsistent from quarter to quarter, and are now without not just Anderson Varejao, but their All-Star point guard.
Theyre clearly improving, and thats really been the mission all year.
But the dog days of the season are here, and when the Wizards jumped to an 11-0 lead, it looked as if the Cavs might just mail it in the rest of the way. Its what a lot of amateurs might do.
But these guys are professionals, Miles said.
Even if youre not going to the playoffs, you dont want to lose, man he said. I want to win every night, and I feel like that should be focus every night.
Were competitors for a living. Were supposed to compete. Plain and simple to me. I dont know any other way to put it.
Miles is like those who watch the Cavs on a regular basis. He sees the improvement in rookie guard Dion Waiters (20 points, including 16 in the second half) and second-year power forward Tristan Thompson (13 points, 14 rebounds).
He understands the benefits of newer teammates like Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Shaun Livingston, who starts in place of Irving.
Heck, even Miles just arrived (via free agency) before the season. So not only are the Cavs relatively young, but theyre almost entirely new.
Throw in the injuries to Irving and Varejao -- and, well, sometimes struggles make sense. Miles admitted that, throwing in the ridiculous road schedule to start the season by saying, Ive never seen anything like it since I started playing basketball.
Still, struggles cant be blamed on those things alone.
We definitely had some things that didnt go our way, Miles said.
But we had some things that didnt go our way because of us, he said. There have been nights where we couldve just competed harder, and had a better outcome.
Thats one thing the Cavs will work on in this final stretch. They will work on things like focus, trusting the process and the idea that it wont always be this way. And yes, just competing harder.
They will want to win. And that shouldnt be too difficult. At this level, odds are, its a natural instinct.
It should be. Thats what gets you here, said Miles, who scored 10 points. Youre talking about the 400 best guys in the world (in the NBA). Theyre here for a reason. That should be instilled in you no matter what.
If you didnt care about winning, you never wouldve beat out all the guys that wanted to make the team. You never wouldve gone hard at workouts for the draft. Here, you have no choice but to compete.
So if youre wondering if the Cavs will think about not trying, about not caring, about packing it in with one eye on the draft lottery well, thats just not in the plans.
Weve made tremendous strides as far as guys getting comfortable with and trusting each other, Miles said. Guys learning how to play with each other was the biggest thing early. I dont think thats the main thing now.
The biggest thing now is just locking in for 48 minutes. This is the part of the year when we can focus on that, and yeah, maybe spoil things for some other teams.