Pindowns: LBJ, new-look Cavs have a ball blasting Boston

LeBron James of the Cavaliers leaps off the bench after a transition 3 by new teammate Jordan Clarkson against the Celtics on Sunday in Boston.

Random pindowns after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best performance of the season — by far — a 121-99 annihilation of the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden…

1. Sure, this was one only one game and in the scope of the NBA’s marathon 82-game season, it was but one of 82. However, this one felt different, from opening tip to final buzzer. Don’t let anyone fool you, this was a statement win.

2. Remember back to a season ago, when Boston had wrapped up the No. 1 seed and Cleveland came to town on April 5 and did whatever it wanted in a 114-91 game that was not that close? This one had the same feel, only it was more impressive.

3. With four new guys — George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. — having all of half a practice with their new team the day before, with All-Star big man Kevin Love out with a broken left hand, on the day the Celtics retired Paul Pierce’s No. 34 jersey… none of it mattered. Maybe Pierce shouldn’t have acted like a child at the prospect of now-former Cavalier Isaiah Thomas being honored with a one-minute video tribute from the Celtics on what Pierce called “his day.” Hope you enjoyed “your day,” Mr. Pierce.

4. Playing aggressive on both ends of the floor from the jump, the Cavaliers were engaged, active, enthusiastic and did something they haven’t done all season — put their foot on the pedal and didn’t let up — for three quarters, anyway.

5. Three quarters because the fourth quarter wasn’t necessary after Cleveland piled up a 95-74 lead after three, then with LeBron James on the bench, removed all doubt in the first two and a half minutes of the fourth when Clarkson hit a 15-footer, Kyle Korver fed Nance on a beautiful pick-and-roll from the right wing and then Clarkson canned an off-balance, transition 3 to make it 104-75 at the 2:15 mark.

6. That shot prompted Celtics coach Brad Stevens to call timeout and as the ABC cameras quickly panned to the Cleveland bench, James’ smile was bigger than it has been all season as he stepped onto the floor and made a boom! gesture. (Also, think Kevin Love isn’t all in? Watch his reaction on the left… he’s the guy in the suit).

7. Coming off a triple-double that included a career-high 19 assists — without his four new teammates suiting up and with rookie Cedi Osman and Jose Calderon in the starting lineup — against the Hawks on Friday night, James is back to being the player who won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in November and December as he appeared to be en route to another Most Valuable Player award.

8. James needed only three quarters — 28 minutes, to be exact — to post his 32nd double-double of the season with 24 points, eight boards and 10 dimes. The only thing that kept him from another triple-double was Boston’s inability to put up much of a fight, at least on this day. The only time LeBron got off the bench in the fourth quarter was on the numerous occasions in which he was cheering on his teammates.

9. The only time James was not himself was during the eight minutes he sat out after banging the top of his right knee on that of Boston’s Aron Baynes while committing an offensive foul with 5:04 to play in the first quarter.

10. While James was on the bench, Boston only managed to outscore Cleveland by two points, which signified it was not going to be the Celtics’ day.

11. After James limped to the bench, in obvious discomfort, the always-classy (tongue planted firmly in cheek) Boston crowd booed him.

12. By the end of the first half, the Garden crowd had turned on its own, as a smattering of boos was heard just before intermission. Early in the third quarter, the smattering turned into a chorus, which was music to the ears for everyone who bleeds Wine and Gold.

13. James’ terrific numbers not withstanding, the performance of the four new Cavaliers was the dominant storyline. Clarkson, Nance, Hood and Hill combined to score 49 points, on 18-of-35 shooting, including 8-of-15 from 3, and grabbed 13 rebounds. The foursome’s combined assist total as a meager five (3 of which came from Nance), but only because the four guys were too busy making shots.

14. Clarkson finished with 17 points, on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep, three boards, one assist and two steals in 23 effective minutes running the second team.

15. Hood had 15 points and three rebounds in 10 minutes, making six of the 11 shots he took, including 3-of-6 from 3. He added a steal and a block in 19 minutes.

16. Hill, the lone new Cavalier to start Sunday for coach Tyronn Lue, finished with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists, making 2-of-4 shots from long distance, in 21 minutes.

17. Nance’s numbers don’t show, but get used to that, Cavalier fans. He had five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 21 minutes, but was extremely active on defense and set terrific screens, the best of which came on the aforementioned pick-and-roll with Korver.

18. The threat of the screen and handoff was so good, in fact, Boston had to blitz Korver, not known as much of a ballhandler but if given an inch, will bury you from deep. With two defenders lunging at Korver, he dropped a perfect pass to Nance rolling to the rack for a dunk. The bucket was nice, but it was his threat of another physical screen that represented Nance’s best portion of the sequence.

19. Osman made his second-straight start and was again impressive. He finished with 12 points, making 2-of-3 from deep, and added five boards, one assist and one steal in 29 minutes.

20. However, it wasn’t Osman’s numbers that were most impressive, as was the case with Nance. His energy and aggressiveness, on both ends of the floor, is downright infectious.

21. All of which made his missed dunk on a breakaway with 2:01 to play in the first half the best laugh-out-loud moment of the day. Two things about that play, though: 1, Osman’s missed dunk after he jumped a passing lane to make the steal. 2, After he missed and the ball caromed off the back rim out of bounds, J.R. Smith gave him a dap and James and Clarkson clapped their hands and encouraged him to keep at it. That kind of positive reinforcement is just what a 22-year-old rookie needs after an embarrassing play. BTW, look for his miss to show on on the next rendition of Shaqtin’ the Fool on TNT.

22. With LeBron obviously reinvigorated and with the four new guys showing out as they did, it would be easy to overlook the performances by the other holdovers — namely, Smith, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Korver.

23. Smith continued his stretch of improved play. He put up 15 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocked shots in 29 minutes. He made 6-of-7 shots, including 3-of-4 from long distance, and his poster dunk off the bounce in the first half was perhaps the single most impressive play of the day.

24. All of that having been said, Smith’s aggression and activity on the defensive end was extremely noticeable, as evidenced by his two rejections and a steal in 29 minutes.

25. An engaged J.R. is a very dangerous J.R., as everyone in Cleveland is aware. Perhaps with more options (Hood, Clarkson, Osman) to take minutes from him, Smith has been spurred on the pick it up… and he has.

26. Thompson, like Smith, was active and got after it on the defensive end. He finished with six points, four points and a block in 27 minutes, making three of the four shots he took.

27. Green really stepped up while LeBron was on the bench after banging knees with Bayne in the first half. He had eight points and three boards in the first half, ending with 10 points, three rebounds, and one assist in 17 minutes.

28. Korver, coming off a 30-point eruption Friday night in the win at Atlanta, wasn’t needed to put up big numbers as he ended with three points, two rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 16 minutes.

29. However, as has been stated many times, simply the threat of him from deep tilts the opposition’s defense, opening the floor for his teammates. The (twice) aforementioned pick-and-roll with Nance is a perfect example of just that.

30. The Cleveland defense… yes, the Cleveland defense, was better than it has been all season. The Cavaliers limited Boston to 40.4 percent shooting from the floor and Cleveland came up with six blocks and seven steals, which paved the road to 16 points off turnovers for the Cavaliers.

31. Aside from the numbers, the Cavaliers were simply engaged on that end of the floor more than they have been at any point this season. The biggest difference was the way the Cleveland players got back in transition defense after they missed a shot on the offensive end, an aspect which has been a gaping hole for the team all season long.

32. Great offense will always trump great defense in the NBA. Against the best defensive team in the league, the Cavaliers put the most points on the Celtics in the first half (64) and in a game (121) they’ve surrendered all season.

33. The Cavaliers peppered the Celtics’ D, shooting 53.6 percent from the floor and a blistering 53.3 percent from 3. They also got to the free-throw line 16 times in the first half, further showing their aggressiveness and not simply setting for jumpers to beat the shot clock.

34. Boosted by three members of the New 4, the Cleveland bench also had a banner day, outscoring their counterparts, 62-41. It marked the 11th time the Cavaliers’ bench has scored 50 or more points in a game this season.

35. It’s taken this long to mention Kyrie Irving, which speaks volumes about how this one went down. The former Cavalier led Boston with 18 points and had five assists, but shot just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Like LeBron, he did not play in the fourth quarter, playing 26 minutes.

36. FWIW, and it’s not much, obviously, Irving not playing in the fourth quarter made it possible for Ante Zizic, the only guy still in the Cleveland organization from the blockbuster trade that sent Irving to Beantown on Aug. 22, to outscore Irving, 2-0. (Yes, that is a joke, BTW).

37. Irving did make it a point to congratulate several of his former teammates at midcourt after the game, including sharing embraces with James, Thompson and Smith.

38. Don’t look now, but the Cavaliers (33-22) have now won three straight games headed into a matchup at Oklahoma City, which embarrassed the Cavaliers on their home floor, 148-124, two weeks ago, Tuesday night to wrap up play before All-Star Weekend. The three-game winning streak is Clevland’s first since it felled the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards on Dec. 14-17.

39. Meanwhile, Cleveland not only stayed within six games of conference-leading Toronto (39-16), but also moved to within 5.5 games of second-place Boston (40-18). Additionally, the Cavaliers wrapped up the season series with Boston, 2-1.

40. Most importantly, thoughts and prayers to Nick Gilbert, 21-year-old son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. The great Doris Burke of ABC/ESPN related Nick — who gained attention across the NBA landscape for his wonderful personalty (not to mention, his awesome bowties!) at the NBA’s Draft Lottery show in recent years — will undergo brain surgery in Detroit this week.

10 Comments on "Pindowns: LBJ, new-look Cavs have a ball blasting Boston"

  1. That was a long one Sam I think your just as excited as some of us it’s just really refreshing to see the Cavs play hard on both ends and getting it from everyone it is such a change from what we have seen over the last 4-5 weeks and has restored the faith and hope in we the passionate fans we appreciate you staying on top of everything as it happened up to the trades and the new Cavs sure makes our lives a little easier and stress free so Thanks!!!!

    • Hey, Brandon… not Sam (and no one compares to Sam, BTW), but it certainly was enjoyable to watch — and write about — such a tremendous display of all-around, team basketball. I appreciate you reading us!

    • Oh my fault I apologise it was a nice piece and as one of those passionate Cavs fans sine 90s and then this year was a what is happening then to see the trades and the way way they layed very refeshng but Thank You Colton for the piece is brought Joy and Hope for the Cavs Management, Team, and The Fans I always enjoy another opinion since things are always a debate with my friends ll but Thank You I really enjoy reading this sight keep up the great work Have a Great Day!!!!

      • Hey, Brandon… It’s always great to hear from readers and I appreciate your kind words. Good to know you are enjoying watching the retooled Cavaliers. And thanks very much for reading us!

  2. The series of trades netting four fine role players for six players and a draft pick has infused vitality, and an uplifted spirit to what had become a disjointed team. Even when Love returns his offense may get negated by diminished roles for osman and nance as osman goes to the bench leaving :hood,clarkson,korver,green,nance, osman in a ten man rotation meaning nance may get eliminated from the ten man rotation or green, and osman will share some of the minutes given to nance in an 11 man rotation. Both osman and nance have a dynamic defensive presence and their roles will definitely get decreased in playing time when love returns.
    The celtics game february 11 was the cavaliers best overall game of the season, intensity, switching defense, intelligent play and dedication to team defense and efficient offense, great player movement leading to delft passing. Keep up the great work as I believe it is sustainable and will lead to great success this season. Prior to the trades it was very depressing and sorrowful to watch the cavaliers on their slow progression to an abyss. Now as lazarus rising from the ashes the new and vastly improved cavaliers are fully resurected and legitimately a championship contender if they sustain the great committment to tenacious defense and spirited play.

    • Howdy, William.. Very, very well said! Perhaps we will remember these last few days as the time when the franchise was injected with a huge does of adrenaline. Thanks very much for reading us!

  3. Mr. Jones, nice summary with good video clips! Thanks! And what an auspicious beginning for the Cavs’ brand new Fantastic 4. It was perfect in every respect. JR’s throw down dunk on Baynes was a thrill. Koby exacted some revenge on Ainge. Pierce got to watch his team get their asses handed to them on his Big Ego Trip Day.

    The churlish Boston fans turned on their own team! Why would any player be loyal to that city of illiterate goons? Keep booing your own players, Boston.

    LeBron returned to Cavs Kingdom. It’s like when he buried the T-Wolves the other night with his fadeaway jumper, and then he chest bumped Cedi while ignoring Isaiah, that was the harbinger of the Cavs’ resurrection.

    Hats off to Koby Altman. I am guilty of vilifying him for the Boston trade, but he turned shit into shinola. Bravo! This is awesome! And he kept the Brooklyn pick…

    • Hey, Wolverine… first, please, no “Mr.” with me. Call me, C.J… lol I always enjoy your comments and I’m glad to be able to respond whenever time allows. The kudos you sent the Cavaliers’ way are well deserved, especially to Koby Altman. Executive of the Year, possibly? lol Anyway, thanks very much for reading us and I look forward to many more interactions as we go forward.

  4. Great write up Colton. The standout thing for me was the reaction of the team to Cedi’s missed dunk. It was amazing to see. I think its fair to say that this reaction from his teammates would have been much different a week ago before the trade deadline. The most impressive thing about this performance, other than the new guys, was the reaction of the bench to the good things that were happening. What a difference a week makes.

    • Hey, Steve… thanks for the props! What’s gone on with the Cavaliers in the last week, as you mentioned, is perhaps a microcosm for life, huh? There’s always a new day… at least until the zombies attack! lol But, as you mentioned, I thought the reaction to Cedi’s missed dunk was telling and carried much more meaning than appeared on the surface. IMHO, it represented a bit of a transformation, culture-wise. Thanks very much for reading us!

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