Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 125-120 road dismantling of the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday:
1. This is what happens when a defending champion plays a young team that’s still in search of an identity. The young team is determined, athletic, performs well. Then the real stars take over when it matters most.
2. Guess who those stars were for the Cavs? You guessed it — as Kyrie Irving was absolutely unconscious on his way to 46 points. Oh, and LeBron James erupted for 34 points and seven assists.
3. It’s not like Kyrie was just chucking it up, either. The man went 15-of-21 from the floor. He was 6-of-10 on 3-pointers, 10-of-10 on free throws. That’s efficiency, folks. That’s dynamite, lovers of NBA highlights.
4. Guess that knee is feeling OK. Guess resting Irving the previous night wasn’t such a bad decision by Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.
5. Note: The above opinion is not necessarily endorsed by the league office, ABC or a large segment of fans. But more on that in a minute.
6. There was little defense in this one, as the Cavs just sort of watched the Lakers hoist up threes and drive to the basket. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell is gonna be an All-Star someday, and the Cavs got an early look as to why. Russell scored 40 points and at times, looked like the best player on the floor.
7. But poor former Cavs forward and current Lakers coach Luke Walton. Remember when he filled in for Steve Kerr and led the Golden State Warriors to all those wins last season?
8. Translation: Don’t ever let anyone tell you the NBA is anything but a players’ league. Walton didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. It’s just that now he has a young team, a sometimes immature team, a team that has too many guards and not enough know-how.
9. Along with Russell, though, the Lakers don’t have a whole lot outside of rookie swingman Brandon Ingram, and young power forwards Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. At least, not much to hold onto moving forward beyond those players.
10. Magic Johnson has his work cut out for him as the new man in charge. And if the Lakers get the No. 1 overall draft pick, do they draft UCLA’s Lonzo Ball? He’d be a hard prospect to pass up. I’d imagine you could figure out a way to make Russell and Ball work in the same backcourt. I also really like the underrated Jordan Clarkson.
11. Anyway, back to the Cavs. As LeBron told reporters in LA of Magic’s hiring: “I have nothing to do with the Lakers, so I have no reaction.”
12. Tristan Thomspon got smacked in the face while going for a rebound and had to leave the game. But the Cavs center said “I’m good,” when FOX Sports Ohio’s Fred McLeod asked about the injury. So we can all expect to see the ironman Thompson in his normal starting role when the Cavs play at Denver on Wednesday.
13. Kevin Love also had a monster night one game after resting. Love went for 21 points and a whopping 15 rebounds.
14. Following the game, LeBron talked a little bit about the concept of players resting. You can watch him in this video.
15. My take? I’m not real big on it, because I feel as if you’re cheating the fans. But as LeBron said, this is a team that has its sights set on a championship — not just winning one regular-season game. No one will remember the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in June.
16. But as I’ve written before, I would rather teams rest players in practice, at shootaround, during the offseason. That said, I totally understand the reasoning. There are no definite answers here.
17. I will say this much — the Cavs (46-23) sure looked well-rested in overtaking the Lakers with energy and defense at the end. Right? Right.
18. The Cavs will now, ahem, rest Monday and not practice. They’ll have a light practice Tuesday. Everyone is expected to go Wednesday. Perhaps even swignman Kyle Korver, who’s missed seven games with a sore foot.
19. Korver to Cleveland.com: “There’s still something in there. It’s getting better but it hasn’t come along like I’d hoped. I should’ve stopped playing on it a week and a half earlier. Now that I’m out, we might as well let it come all the way back, but it just hasn’t yet.”
20. Finally, Kyrie to FOX Sports Ohio on his big night: “It’s great. Just staying aggressive, getting to my spots, making sure I got my legs under me. Despite the score, just keep attacking.” (Full video.)