Pindowns: The Big Two and plenty of help… a recipe for Cavs success

Kevin Love of the Cavaliers attacks the rack as Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors looks on during Game 2 on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre.

Thirty-one random pindowns on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 128-110 beatdown of the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre…

1. Since Aug. 22, a season-long narrative regarding the Cavaliers has been, “they’re toast without Kyrie.”

2. No longer The Big Three, LeBron James and Kevin Love showed the basketball world Cleveland still has a Big Two. Flashing back to the way they played together before Isaiah Thomas made his debut — and after IT was jettisoned — James and Love were the leading men in what became a demolition of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

3. James and Love combined for a staggering 74 points, on 30-of-49 shooting, 19 rebounds, 16 assists, two steals and a block.

4. James went off for 43 points, shooting 19-of-28, eight boards, 14 dimes and a steal, while turning the ball over only once in 41 minutes.

5. Love, showing the form that’s made him an All-Star five times in the league, including this season, would have been the headliner if not for LeBron’s latest jaw-dropping performance, with 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting, 11 rebounds, a pair of assists a steal and a block.

6. “He wanted the ball, demanded the ball & we got it to him,” James said of Love. “He worked well off the ball, too. He’s our All-Star power forward… that was a huge game for him.”

7. While The Big Two was great, the supporting characters also authored stellar performances. J.R. Smith (15 points), Jeff Green (14 points) and George Hill (13 points) pushed the number of Cleveland players to reach double figures to five.

8. Hill continues to show why he is such a vital part of this Cleveland attack. Starting with his 19-minute, second-half performance in Game 7 against Indiana, the 31-year-old veteran of the playoff wars takes some of the ballhandling responsibilities from James, plays excellent defense and just does whatever is necessary for his team to win. To wit, in 35 minutes in Game 2, Hill added three rebounds and two assists, kept the basketball moving with excellent passes and committed zero turnovers.

9. Which backs up what happened during the regular season. In minutes James, Love and Hill played together, the Cavaliers had an incredible offensive rating of 130.1, so the fact Cleveland erupted for 128 points should not be shocking.

10. The fact the Cavaliers scored 128 points — against a team that finished in the top five in the NBA in defense during the regular season — and turned the basketball over only three times… as a TEAM, is incredible. The three turnovers in a playoff game are the fewest by a team in a playoff game in the history of the NBA.

11. The 128 points Cleveland laid on Toronto are the most ever allowed by the Raptors in the playoffs at Air Canada Centre.

12. In two games in this series, Cleveland has 50 assists, compared to only 10 turnovers.

13. Of course, all of which begins — and ends — with James. His 14 assists in this one are the most ever in a playoff game by a player scoring 40 or more points.

14. LeBron has now been Cleveland’s outright leader in points and assists in each of his last 10 postseason games, tying the NBA playoff record held by Oscar Robertson.

15. James, a three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, now has a league record four playoff games with at least 40 points and 10 dimes. Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West each had 3 three such games.

16. After playing in all 82 games of a regular-season for the first time in his career, James is putting up these numbers in nine playoff games:

* 34.4 points per game.
* 9.9 rebounds per game.
* 9.0 assists per game.
* While shooting 55 percent from the floor.

17. Here are James’ numbers in nine playoff games, with minutes, points, rebounds and assists:

* 44 24 10 12
* 40 46 12 5
* 42 28 12 8
* 46 32 13 7
* 42 44 10 8
* 31 22 5 7
* 43 45 8 7
* 46 26 11 13
* 40 43 8 14

18. Meanwhile, in Boston, a young man many are calling “the next LeBron” — Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers — had one point, five rebounds, six assists and four turnovers in 31 minutes in a 108-103 Game 2 loss at Boston, finishing with a plus-minus of minus-23.

19. For perspective, when James was Simmons’ age, he was averaging 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists… for a season.

20. Which is a long-winded way of saying comparing Simmons, or anyone, to James by calling him “the next LeBron” is terribly unfair.

21. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who has taken plenty of heat pretty much all season, deserves some kudos. Like his team, he appears to be rounding into form, pushing all the right buttons.

22. Lue’s season-long faith in the likes of Smith, Green and Tristan Thompson was baffling to many, but they are rewarding him for the faith he showed in them.

23. Smith has been terrific defensively and completely engaged on both ends of the floor, has had his best games of the season in the playoffs.

24. Green, while struggling most of the series against Indiana, has been unearthed against Toronto, with games of 16 and 14 points, respectively, and playing solid defense.

25. Thompson sat and gathered dust for pretty much all of the first six games against Indiana, only to called upon by Lue to start Game 7 and it proved to be a master stroke as Thompson responded with a key double-double, an effort he matched in Game 1 against Toronto. He wasn’t needed much in Game 2, thanks mostly to Love’s dominant performance.

26. Speaking of Love, Lue’s steadfast belief in starting him at the five, despite calls from long and far — not to mention, some hints from Love, himself — to start Thompson at the five and move Love back to his more-familiar and more-comfortable spot at the four, proved to be correct.

27. Lue celebrated his 41st birthday with the win in Game 2, allowing him to remain undefeated as a head coach in the second round of the playoffs.

28. Going forwarding, a LeBron-led team has never lost a series it led, 2-0, posting a perfect 21-0 record. In turn, the Raptors have never won a series in which it lost Games 1 and 2. And if the series were to return to Air Canada Centre for a Game 5 or, even less likely, a Game 7, it won’t be much of an advantage, if any, for the Raptors — the Cavaliers have now won five straight playoff games at ACC.

29. By the way, Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan missed all five 3-pointers he hoisted in Game 2, pushing his total makes from beyond the arc in 12 playoff games against the Cavaliers to… well, zero.

30. None of this is meant to take anything away from Toronto. The Raptors were the only team in the league to finish in the top five in both offense and defense during the regular season, when they won a franchise-record 59 games. For those trying to minimize what the Cavaliers have done to them, the Raptors went an impressive 19-11 against the supposedly superior Western Conference this season.

31. And finally, after what we’ve *ahem* witnessed in Games 1 and 2 of this series, it brings us to this — the Indiana Pacers are pretty darn good.