The Cavaliers handled their business Thursday night, battering the visiting Nets for a 107-87 win.
The Nets lack top-end talent when healthy. Without Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, as they were in this game, Brooklyn simply doesn’t have an NBA-caliber rotation. The 20-point margin could have been bigger if the Cavs had been even warm from long range.
More on the 3-point shot, Kyrie Irving’s jumper and a few pretty moments of harmony between the Cavs’ Big Three:
1. The Cavs love shooting threes. They were 12-of-38 (31.6 per cent) on Thursday, so this game could have been an a frightening blowout if they had really been hot from deep.
2. I don’t necessarily think the Cavs should shoot less threes. But there are times when the offense stagnates and an easy bucket or a trip to the free throw line could right the ship. It’s those times where the Cavs seem to double down on long-range bombs, instead of running something designed to get an easy look inside.
3. Shooting a low percentage from three is no big deal against the Nets. But as the competition stiffens in the postseason, they’ll probably need to knock more of them down or really lock down on defense. About the defense …
4. Hard to argue with the defensive effort in a 20-point win where the entire fourth quarter was garbage time. The Cavs held the Nets to 37 percent shooting from the field and just 19 percent from deep. The Cavs seemed to make some adjustments, particularly on Shane Larkin, who found his way into the paint with relative ease for much of the first quarter.
5. The Cavs’ pick-n-roll defense seemed less than aggressive, but I’m guessing that was by design. The big guys rarely showed hard and almost never doubled the ball-handler coming off the screen. Because the Nets lack any dynamic creators, the Cavs were content to let the dribbler get space and clean looks off the ball screen. It was a smart strategy, but one that I’m sure would be altered were the Cavs to match up with, say, the Warriors in the Finals.
6. Kevin Love had a great first half, and I’m sure the Cavs are hoping that he finds a groove and becomes a truly formidable offensive threat heading into the playoffs. Love was particularly sharp from deep, where he has struggled recently, knocking down 4-of-8. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 25 excellent minutes.
7. The Cavs really put the game away in the second quarter when they lapped the Nets, scoring 34 points to just 17 for Brooklyn. It was in this frame where I saw a few moments of blissful harmony involving Love, Irving and LeBron James.
8. At the 6:00 mark, Irving and James ran a beautiful give-and-go, with James receiving the ball on a strong dive to the rim. LeBron was on his way to the hoop and, as he’s done his entire career, found the open man (Love) stationed in the weak side corner and hit him with a pass square in the shooting pocket. Love drained the three.
9. Just a few minutes later, Irving swung the ball to Love who swung it James in the corner. The ball movement was crisp and intentional, putting the Nets’ defense on roller skates, and the possession ended with LeBron driving to the bucket for a made lay-up with a foul.
10. It probably says something that these two possessions involving the Big Three working in perfect concert are rare enough that I would note both in this column. But the Cavs are where they are, and this kind of action with Love, James and Irving simply doesn’t happen enough. Watching them create easy buckets for each other was a tantalizing view of what’s possible when three elite players find a moment of on-court harmony.
11. Speaking of James, he had another routine game, which is to say he was outstanding. He was 8-of-11 from the field for 24 points, dished out 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds for good measure.
12. James’ athleticism has obviously always been supreme, but he seems to have taken a time machine back a few years — when he goes to the rim now, it’s with nasty intentions. He’s throwing dunks down often and with aggression.
13. Watching James play like as he did Thursday, Cavs fans could be excused for wondering if he may be capable of delivering a miracle (and beating Golden State or, for that matter, San Antonio four of seven games would have to be considered a borderline miracle).
14. Irving’s jumper was short all night. He struggled from the field, and couldn’t seem to find his legs. Have to wonder if perhaps he could have used a night off, especially because he was battling an illness.
15. One final thought on the big man: Timofey Mozgov deserves some accolades for playing one of his better games in a while. Just one game removed from picking up five fouls in nine minutes against Dwight Howard, Mozzy played an active 17 minutes. He chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. It’s probably too late for him to become a reliable piece of the rotation, but his productivity against the Nets should have been the rule, not the exception this season.
16. Bonus thought: Is something wrong with noted Cavs enforcer Sasha Kaun? I may have missed the news, so if anyone knows why he didn’t see action, please share.