Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 10th straight win, a 121-114 toughie over the host Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.
1. There was a time when the Cavaliers trailed this game by a 67-58 count in the second quarter. Yes, the horrible Hawks were having their way with the Cavs — again. Then LeBron James took the reigns defensively.
2. Yes, the Cavs gave up 114 points for the game. But as James and these Cavs so often do, they defended when it mattered. Or at least enough to get by.
3. So what did LeBron do that was so wonderful on D? He took it upon himself to try to slow Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder.
4. Schroder is 6-foot-1 and 172 points, an absolute blur with the basketball. LeBron is 6-8, 250 pounds and will be 33-years-old next month. But he took on the assignment, as Schroder blew past Jose Calderon, Dwyane Wade and anyone else in Georgia who dared to try to defend him.
5. So the Cavs made the change. “He was kicking our butts in the first half,” LeBron told reporters of Schroder. “My teammates asked me to take the challenge. I wanted the challenge.”
6. Schroder finished with 27 points — but just 10 of those came in the second half. “It’s amazing when the best player in the world tries to stop you and tries to guard you,” Schroder told the media. “I still tried to be aggressive. It doesn’t mean that I have to stop playing. He’s a big body and it’s tough to go past him.”
7. Added Cavs coach Tyronn Lue: “(James on Schroder) was big time for us.”
8. So give James the Cavs’ defensive player of the game award. Give the Cavs 10 straight wins. And give this team an A-plus for continuing to do whatever it takes. Mostly, the Cavs just seem to enjoy playing the game again, playing with and for each other, playing under Lue.
9. Offensively, the player of the game award goes to Kevin Love. All he did was scored 25 points, pull down 16 big rebounds and shoot 7-of-8 from the line in a game where every free throw mattered. Like LeBron, Love seems to have finally adapted to all the newness around him.
10. James went for 24 points on 8-of-11 from the field. His three misses were all 3-pointers. (He also made three.) On top of that, he had 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double in the Cavs’ 22 games.
11. Dwyane Wade finished with 19 points off the bench, and man oh man, this guy is beginning to be a real godsend. He made some winning defensive plays as well. His championship experience is shining through, as Wade always seems to be at his best when the team needs it most.
12. The Cavs (15-7) did a much better job on the boards than in that clunker against the Hawks back on Nov. 6. This time, the Cavs collected 40 rebounds to the Hawks’ 29.
13. Along with playing strong position defense, LeBron made a few highlight-reel stops, violently spiking Taurean Prince’s shot to the floor, then later pinning a layup by Schroder. You can view both swats here.
14. Jae Crowder (15 points) and Jeff Green (12) also gave nice all-around showings. Both have been underrated parts of the current hot streak.
15. Ersan Ilyasova added 22 points for the Hawks (4-17), and I swear the man’s eyes become one with the basket mere moments after he sees “Cavs” on the opposing uniform. Without his outside shooting, the Hawks would’ve lost this thing by 30.
16. Finally, Cavs guard Iman Shumpert is scheduled to have knee surgery Friday and reportedly will miss six-to-eight weeks. Meanwhile, no word on the returns of Tristan Thompson (calf) or Derrick Rose (ankle, away from team). Friday marks two weeks from the time when Lue indicated Rose would miss about two weeks.