CLEVELAND — Five dribbles on the Cavaliers’ rather easy (no surprise there) 109-97 win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
1. There was a time, like last year during the regular season, that the Cavs didn’t seem to match up well with the Hawks. Then again, until about mid-January, the Cavs didn’t really match up with anyone. But I suspect they won’t start 19-20 again — and with the way things are going, the Hawks don’t look like they pose much of a threat.
2. This isn’t intended to rip the Hawks. They’re still a top-five team in the East … I think. Let’s count them out: A. Cavs. B. Bulls? C. Heat? D. Hawks? E. Hmmm. Pacers? I imagine the Raptors and Wizards figure in that race somewhere, too. But again, with the way the Cavs are looking, everyone else in the East is fighting for second.
3. It’s still awful early, but this is sort of what I figured would happen with the Cavs (10-3). LeBron James (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Love (25 and 11) would consistently dominate, the Cavs would win a lot – and then Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert would return. And it’ll be yikes, yikes and double yikes for a lot of opponents, if not for everyone.
4. Speaking of Irving, excellent ESPN beat guy Dave McMenamin reported Irving played James in a one-dribble-only game of one-on-one Saturday. According to McMenamin’s source, Irving “destroyed” LeBron in one of the games. The two Cavs stars played a best-of-five set, per the report. No matter how you spin it, this is good news for the Cavs. Irving’s return to full health will only make a really good team even better, and likely even more inspired.
5. I don’t like how James got frustrated and removed himself from the game in the third quarter, without giving his replacement time to check in. It resulted in a technical foul for the Cavs. I do, however, like how James took responsibility for it afterward — admitting he “blew a gasket” and that he apologized to his teammates and coaches. True leadership doesn’t mean being perfect. It means holding yourself accountable and showing your teammates how to be a winner. LeBron, clearly, has been doing that for some time.
6. I always lie in these things. I said five dribbles. I’m writing a few more than that.
7. Cavs coach David Blatt on LeBron subbing himself out: “He thought we were playing hockey.”
8. See how much fun it can be when things are going well? See how silly it was to freak out when the Cavs lost a couple of games last week? And man, the folks who love to stir up drama in search of web hits and TV ratings are terribly bored. When it comes to this year’s Cavs, you can’t even fabricate a good controversy.
9. Tristan Thompson finished with nine points and 16 boards, starting in place of Timofey Mozgov (shoulder). Matthew Dellavedova scored 12 points, in place of Mo Williams (sore leg), who is in place of Irving (knee). In fact, the Cavs outscored the Hawks by 27 points with Delly on the floor. Also, J.R. Smith scored 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Yes, that’s a lot of misses, but the Cavs don’t mind. They need Smith to be aggressive and keep firing away.