The Cavaliers continued their torrid shooting en route to a 128-90 win over the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. The game was all but over at halftime and featured more than a quarter of garbage time.
There was a whole lot of good and very little bad.
1. LeBron James’ passing. James has been in pass-first mode lately, and it’s a real pleasure to watch. He finished with 11 assists in 29 minutes. It’s funny, during his first go-round in Cleveland, James was at times criticized for passing to open teammates instead of hoisting more shots. Interesting how that narrative changes when it’s Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the receiving end of those unselfish dimes. Which brings me to . . .
2. Love. He’s truly in a groove at the offensive end. He finished a whopping +38 and cashed in 7-9 three point attempts on his way to 27 points. No longer hesitating when the ball finds him, Love is catching and firing with extreme confidence. After the Cavs won the title last year, I wrote that Love’s third season in Cleveland would be his best because he could finally exhale. So far, he seems quite on track.
3. Irving. He was 7-7 from the field in the first quarter (4-4 from deep) while posting 19 points. Like Love, Irving ended the game at +38 and tallied 25 points. His offensive game is approaching unstoppable, as evidenced by the third quarter jumper he floated from the baseline and behind the backboard. The shot literally dropped out of the rafters and splashed through the net.
4. Cavs’ defense. While the Mavericks are no offensive juggernaut, the Cavs deserve credit for holding them to 55 points through three quarters. Dallas has a few very capable scorers in Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams but settled for long jumper after long jumper, most of which were hoisted without much rhythm. It felt like Dallas’ offense was a game of hot potato, with passes being thrown not to set up open looks but to simply transfer responsibility into someone else’s hands.
5. Free throws. The Cavs made 22-24 from the stripe, which obviously is fantastic. They also shot twice as many as the Mavs, which speaks to how much more aggressive Cleveland was at the offensive end from tip to final buzzer.
1. Ummmm . . . On a night when the Cavs’ lead ballooned to 45 in the second half, I’m really reaching to balance all the good with even a little bad. But I’ll try.
2. J.R. Smith. He was 1-11 from the field. It mattered not at all. Just one of those games where his shot was off. It happens every so often and had zero impact on the game. Plus, Smith is one of the biggest cheerleaders and positive influences on the team even when he’s not making shots – he has demonstratively celebrated a few of Love’s recent threes while running back to play defense.
3. Mike Dunleavy. I feel bad picking on Dunleavy, especially following a blowout. But he continues to look out of place. At one point, LeBron hit him in the back with a pass up the court — Dunleavy was not moving or thinking at the same pace as James and, if it persists, that’s a surefire way to find oneself sliding a few seats down the bench. Dunleavy also forced a three from the top of the arc that was blocked. He just doesn’t mesh right now.
Channing Frye. Sadly, Frye suffered another significant personal loss and was not with the team Friday night. I wondered if the Cavs would be able to replace his consistent production off the bench. Garbage time aside, no one from the bench really stepped up but that’s only because the starters combined for 85 points.
The entire team will supposedly travel to Columbus for Saturday’s Buckeye game against Michigan. If you’re an Ohio State fan, here’s hoping the Cavs championship karma finds its way into the Scarlett and Gray’s locker room. The Cavs will be back at it on Sunday, working through the process in Philadelphia.