Dribbles: Lots of Love lifting Cavs higher

Kevin Love's 34 points vs. the Magic were a career-high as a member of the Cavaliers.


CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 117-103 hammer job of the visiting Orlando Magic on Monday.

1. LeBron James has said he wants Kevin Love to make the All-Star team this season, and by the looks of things lately, James will get his wish. Love has been outstanding, and Monday night was perhaps the best example of a season that’s going very right.

2. Love scored a season-high 27 points — in the first half. He finished with 34 — his highest output since joining the Cavs before the start of last season. What I like most about Love is how he’s receiving the ball near the low blocks, backing down defenders, and scoring at the basket.

3. That’s a change from last season, when it seemed like Love settled for 3-pointers way too often. Not a huge deal — as Love is one of the rare power forwards who can nail shots from the perimeter and still pull down gobs of rebounds. But he also possesses a strong inside game that the Cavs didn’t see nearly enough last year.

4. I suspect part of that was because Love’s back was bothering him for about half the year. The other part was likely because the Cavs were truly a first-year program. LeBron returned to Cleveland, David Blatt debuted in the NBA, and Love and others were constantly trying to adjust to their new situation.

5. That said, Love still averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. A lot of teams would kill to get those numbers from their so-called third option.

6. Through 13 games this year, those averages have increased to 18.3 points and 12.0 rebounds. Love is shooting 43 percent from the floor, 33 percent on threes, and a career-high 88 percent on free throws.

7. Yes, his field-goal percentage could afford to increase. But it’s OK that Love has become a “volume shooter” of sorts. The Cavs need him to be aggressive and look to score.

8. Love on the night: “I found a good rhythm. I felt like I was posting up and my shot has felt great. It just hasn’t quite dropped like it was tonight, at least (not) from the perimeter. Those guys were finding me, we were getting out on the break and getting easy looks. We’ve done a really good job these last few games, every single one of us, of going from a good shot to a great.”

9. Moving on, J.R. Smith also seems to be rediscovering himself lately. He scored 26 on 10-of-16 shooting vs. the Magic, burying six of his 10 threes. Smith has scored at least 15 points in each of the previous four games. And if you exclude the 5-of-18 night vs. Atlanta, he’s shooting a sizzling 61 percent in that span.

10. This is all good. Like Love, the Cavs need Smith to keep firing away. He can be streaky, but when he’s on, it’s usually a back-breaker to opponents.

11. Another cool thing about Monday: The Cavs starters crushed the Magic starters by a 99-44 count. What makes it even more impressive is some of these guys aren’t actually Cavs starters. Instead, Matthew Dellavedova (15 points), Tristan Thompson (nine with 14 rebounds), and maybe even Smith will come off the bench when everyone is healthy.

12. Despite all that, LeBron will again warrant most of headlines for joining Oscar Robertson as the lone two players in league history in the top 25 in both career points and assists. James finished with 15 points and 13 assists, and the Cavs outscored the Magic by a whopping 29 points when he was on the floor.

13. LeBron on Robertson: “He’s a guy who laid the foundation. I’m just trying to carry it on.”

14. Magic coach Scott Skiles on James: “Every time there is a great young player, everybody always talks about Michael (Jordan) and stuff like that. But to me, he’s always been more like a Magic (Johnson) or an Oscar-type player because of his vision. That’s what makes him so difficult (to defend). … Give him a steady diet of running and double-teaming him or whatever, he’s going to carve you up. He’s going to hit everybody (with passes), find everybody, find the open man. … His vision certainly sets him apart from a lot of the great players.”

15. Remember, this was Scott Skiles talking. And he still owns the NBA single-game assist record with 30. So the man knows a little something about great passing.

16. Blatt on LeBron joining Robertson: “That gives me chills to even hear that. That’s an amazing, amazing accomplishment.”

17. Finally, the Cavs (11-3) have won three straight and are doing it by posting up, cutting to the basket, finding the open man and as Love suggested, taking the best possible shot. Another really good test comes Wednesday, at talented Toronto.

RECAP: Cavaliers cruise past Magic, 117-103.