Random dribbles on the visiting Cavaliers’ impressive 114-106 over the Pistons on Friday.
1. Once the Cavs get a handle on Tyronn Lue’s new system, they should be pretty good. As in, great. That’s what we learned from this one. The Cavaliers defended, the ball moved, and Kevin Love (29 points, 5-of-7 on 3-pointers) made shots.
2. Kyrie Irving (28 points, 11-of-19 shooting) also looked a lot closer to what we’ve come to expect. That’s good news, as Irving has struggled a bit lately — at least, struggled for him. But against the Pistons, he played perhaps his best defense of the season and did his thing offensively.
3. LeBron James is usually the star of the Cavs’ Big Three, and while he didn’t score as many points as Love or Irving, he made sure to facilitate. James scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Also, in each of Lue’s first three games, LeBron passed for nine assists. Against the Pistons, he had eight.
4. So in Lue’s four games since taking over for David Blatt, the Cavs are 3-1 and James is averaging 8.8 assists. Read: LeBron is truly leading by example when it comes to the Cavs’ motto of playing with pace and space.
5. LeBron on the night: “We always talk about, it starts and ends with the ‘Big Three,’ and those two guys (Love and Irving) got it done. I filled in, did what I needed to do to help us win.”
6. You also had to really like the play the Cavs got from the center position vs. the Pistons monster in the middle, Andre Drummond. Cavs starter Tristan Thompson hustled his way to 11 points and 14 rebounds, and Timofey Mozgov came off the bench for 12 points and eight boards. Mozgov looks like a new man under Lue.
7. So the Cavs centers combined for 25 points and 22 rebounds. Drummond finished with 20 and eight. The Cavs will take it.
8. Again, I also thought Irving did his best job defensively since returning from knee surgery. Irving played a large role in harassing talented Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson, who went 6-of-16 shooting, including 0-of-3 on threes.
9. This isn’t to say the Cavs (33-12) played the prefect game. But it was clearly their best night under Lue. If they can consistently perform with this type of efficiency, no one will continue to say they’re merely the best team in the East.
10. The Pistons (25-22) are much-improved from last season. They seem to have a firm grasp of coach Stan Van Gundy’s European brand of basketball. They hammered the mighty Warriors, and the Pistons’ style focuses on strong ball movement, good spacing and quality perimeter shooting — a style the Cavs hope to emulate. But the Pistons looked overwhelmed on this night, as the Cavs kept the pressure on (at both ends) for all 48 minutes.
11. Van Gundy wasn’t ashamed to give the Cavs credit. “They played really, really well,” he said. “So, it’s not all on us. I mean, they were terrific.”
12. A bigger test takes place Saturday. That’s when the Spurs come to town. It will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Cavs. If they give the type of effort they gave Friday, and bury those open jumpers again, they’ll win. Basically, what they did Friday, in terms of determination and pace, needs to become a habit.