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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 129-107 hammer job of a win over the host Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
1. Let’s start with the starting lineup. It seems like it took forever for coach Tyronn Lue to move J.R. Smith to the bench. But Lue finally did it. Will it be the right move? We shall see. But Lue had to try something, anything to pump some life into this team.
2. So give Lue credit (yes, credit) for making the change before it became too late. And no, it’s not too late. The playoffs are still a month away.
3. Smith had not played anything close to consistently well all season. He just sort of seemed lost out there. He often appeared timid. He looked like his best days as a starting shooting guard were behind him. And guess what? Maybe they are. And guess what? That’s OK.
4. Remember, when Smith first came to the Cavs, he was primarily known as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. He came off the bench and fired away. That was just his role, and he served it well. The Cavs will need him to do it again. And if J.R. accepts the role, he should fare very well.
5. Bottom line is Kyle Korver, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood are each better suited to start. Korver will fill the role for now. When Hood returns from his back issue, Hood will start.
6. Yes, there is a chance Smith could get buried on the bench behind the younger duo of Hood and Clarkson. That seems unlikely, though. Lue made it clear Smith was an important piece in the Cavs’ last three runs to the NBA Finals. And Smith and Korver coming off the bench together (once Hood returns) would mean some real 3-point firepower in reserve.
7. It certainly worked out well Tuesday, with Korver scoring 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting (including 5-of-6 on threes). Clarkson erupted for a Cavs-high 23 and Smith was excellent with 14 points in 22 minutes. Best of all, Smith attempted 12 shots, or more than one a minute. That, folks, is the J.R. who Cavs fans know and love.
8. Of course, no one was as good as LeBron James — who recorded his 14th triple-double of the season with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists despite barely playing in the fourth. The 14 in a season are a career-best for the Cavs’ 33-year old superstar, who now has 69 triple-doubles in his career.
9. What’s that say about LeBron? “Just says I’m like fine wine, I get better with age, that’s what it says,” he told reporters.
10. Granted, these are the Suns we’re talking about. They’re bad, and they want to be bad. They should get a very nice player in the draft come June. Right now, though, they have no desire to defend, play team basketball or win.
11. Moral of the story: The Cavs did what they were supposed to do against a lousy opponent.
11. In the event the Cavs’ injury list weren’t long enough, Larry Nance Jr. played just 14 minutes after tweaking his hamstring. According to ESPN, he received some treatment after the game. “I’m absolutely fine,” he said.
12. Nance Jr. is expected to play in Thursday’s game at Portland. And man, that will not be an easy one. The Trail Blazers have been riding high lately, mostly thanks to the guard tandem of Damian Lillard and Canton GlenOak High School product C.J. McCollum. Whoever starts next to George Hill in the Cavs backcourt will have his hands considerably fuller than Korver did in Phoenix.
13. Even with the win, the Cavs (39-28) remain a half game behind the Indiana Pacers and in fourth-place in the East. The Pacers won a biggie on the road over Philadelphia on Tuesday.
14. Rookie wing Josh Jackson had a nice game for the Suns (19-50), scoring 19 points and displaying loads of promise. Still, I bet the Suns sometime wish they had included Jackson in a trade proposal with the Cavs that would have netted them Kyrie Irving. But the Suns shot it down and the potential offseason deal died quickly.
15. After Portland, the Cavs head to Chicago to wrap up their longest trip of the season. They will then play three-straight at home, including a biggie against East-leading Toronto. Kevin Love could make his return late in that homestand, and from the sounds of things, almost certainly will before April.