When the Cavaliers rolled into Milwaukee on Friday night, they did so as the oldest team in the league, a team facing an athletic opponent, a much younger opponent, a hungry opponent.
But the Cavs used all of those things to their advantage, showing experience, skill and cohesiveness to put on a bully of a basketball clinic and cruise to a 116-97 win.
It’s only two games, but this year’s version of the Cavs looks less selfish, significantly deeper, and perhaps more determined to take care of business and play the right way.
LeBron James, of course, has been the godfather of that approach and he proved it again in this one.
He not only scored 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and passed for eight assists, but he made sure everything was in order defensively. On one occasion, he stuffed Bucks star swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo so violently that you may want to cringe when watching the replay on all the highlight shows.
“We executed the defensive plan that our coaches gave us. The results were us getting a big win on the road,” James told reporters.
James and Kevin Love (17 points, 12 rebounds) took care of things inside, and Kyle Korver came off the bench and came to life from way, way out.
Korver went 5-of-6 on 3-pointers to finish with 17 points. During one important stretch in the third quarter, he took three threes and made them all.
“Kyle, he came out and he really gave us a spark shooting the basketball,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue told the media. “With his movement and him running around, he kind of throws defenses off.”
Jae Crowder added 14 points for the Cavs (2-0), and Derrick Rose had 12 before exiting with a sprained ankle.
To no one’s surprise, the Bucks were led by Antetokounmpo, who tallied a game-high 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting. Through two games, the Greek Freak is averaging 35.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.
But he was just one of two Bucks to reach double figures in scoring — compared to six for the Cavs, who shot 54 percent from the field.
Perhaps more impressively, they finished 17-of-17 on free throws. Not bad for a team that hit just less than 75 percent from the line last season.
These Cavs no longer have Kyrie Irving running the point, and that fact still feels a little strange. But the trade that shipped Irving to Boston may be starting to slowly show that the Cavs addressed an issue of depth, an issue of continuous teamwork, an issue of balance.
It’s early, but that’s what it looks like so far.
For the Cavs, the way to prove that point is to merely keep doing what they’re doing.
And as the only team with an averaged age of 30, they may be older. But hey, they may be even wiser, too.
NOTES: Lue said Jose Calderon will start at point guard if Rose is unable to go Saturday against the Magic. It seems unlikely that Rose will play. … The Cavs have defeated the Magic 17 straight times. … Against the Bucks, the Cavs were 11-of-26 from behind the arc. That included 9-of-16 on threes in the second half.