The Cavaliers had too much offensive firepower for the Portland Trail Blazers on their way to a 137-125 win Wednesday night.
Kevin Love opened his incredible night by dropping 34 points in the first quarter, almost breaking the NBA record for points in a quarter (37) set by Klay Thompson. Love’s amazing night aside, the Cavs didn’t exactly dominate the Blazers.
In fact, a quick glance at that team stats show an evenly balanced affair.
Portland shot 52.2 percent from the field, the Cavs shot 53.3. The Cavs had only three more rebounds and assists than the Blazers; each team had six steals, and the turnovers were nearly identical, too.
So what was the difference? Three-point shooting.
Portland was on fire, knocking down 13 of 29 (44 percent) from deep.
The Cavs, though, were unconscious, shooting 21-of-36 (58 percent). Though the Blazers had a huge edge in points in the paint, it was the three ball that doomed them.
There was plenty to assess in this game both good and bad.
1. Love. He could have sat down after five minutes and still contributed a full night’s work. He had 20 points in those first five minutes, 26 points after 8 minutes and, of course, 34 when the horn sounded to end the opening frame. Love was relatively quiet from there on out, finishing with 40 points and eight rebounds.
2. LeBron James. Lost in Love’s three point barrage were the 12 assists James dished out in just the first half. He finished with 31 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. Just spectacular, again.
3. Kyrie Irving. The other member of the Big Three had a really nice game, even if it may have been overshadowed by the greatness of Love and James. Irving finished with 20 points on 8-15 shooting (3-6 from deep) and dished out six assists. As he is accustomed to do, Irving rescued the Cavs early in the third quarter with a small flurry of buckets after Portland went on an 8-0 run.
4. Channing Frye. He hit 4-6 three points hots and chipped in 14 points. When Love sat, Frye entered and simply continued the torrid shooting pace from deep. It’s long past the point of noting what an important pickup he has been. Frye is now depended on and expected to add a huge offensive spark off the bench.
1. Cavs’ defense. The Blazers deserve a ton of credit, they have some dynamic offensive talents in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But the Cavs defensive effort for the entire game vacillated somewhere between lackluster and invisible, especially in the paint where Portland poured in 56 points. Mason Plumlee, in particular, had his way on the interior making 9-10 shots on his way to 19 points.
2. James’ defense. Look, it’s pretty tough to pick on LeBron given what he did, but there were at least two times when I saw his defender cut to the basket for an easy bucket while he basically stood in place, taking the defensive possession off. When it’s time to lock someone down, James is as good a defender as anyone in the game. Expecting him to play every defensive possession in November like it’s his last is unrealistic and foolish. Still, as he goes, so go the Cavs, and when he takes plays off, it can be infectious. That’s fair, right?
3. Jordan McCrae. It’s unfair to expect McCrae to step on the court and have a high level of comfort given how few meaningful minutes he’s logged. But he played when it mattered on Wednesday night and wasn’t good. It’s not just the poor shooting (1-9), it’s his tunnel vision at the offensive end. He aggressively looks for his shot, but without much regard for offensive rhythm or the other four guys on the court.
4. Mike Dunleavy. Unless he’s got an injury that I am not aware of, Dunleavy notched a DNP-CD. It’s hard to blame Ty Lue for giving guys like McCrae a shot – Dunleavy has not brought a whole lot to the table thus far.
5. Tristan Thompson. He wasn’t really bad, to be fair. But he was definitely quiet in his 27 minutes. Thompson scored six points and grabbed only six rebounds. He hit just two of his six free throws, but perhaps most disconcerting is his single personal foul. On a night when Plumlee and his teammates were consistently scoring at the rim, Thompson somehow had one foul, which suggests he was either out of position or uninterested. It’s one game, no big deal, yet.
Lillard. This cat is an absolute monster at the offensive end. 40 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. He scored from deep (5-7), from the line (9-9), at the rim and off the dribble. Basically, the Cavs had no answer. Iman Shumpert, a physical and capable defender, was abused by Lillard, and that’s no knock on Shumpert. Lillard is simply an elite scorer.
The Cavs had seven “and-one” chances Wednesday night. That seems like a lot and proves how aggressive and adept they were at finishing drives on the offensive end.
The Cavs will try to keep up the high octane offense on Friday night when the Dallas Mavericks come to Cleveland.