Big day for the Cavaliers. First they trade a waiver-wire pickup for the entire Grizzlies bench PLUS a first round draft pick, then they pummel a reigning Eastern Conference Finalist. Also, based on post-game chatter, this game rates highly among Cavs:the Bloggers. I watched with company, so hopefully my attentiveness and recollection do this justice.
Cleveland sprinted off on a 31 to 27 first quarter lead. Kyrie was RIDICULOUS; 19 points on 8 of 10 from the field. Circus shots at the rim, pull-ups from mid-range, threes from deeeeep; Kyrie displayed the whole arsenal. The league’s soon-to-be undisputed best passing front court mesmerized with pinpoint dimes; Walton, Zeller and Thompson combined for eight first quarter assists.
Walton perpetuated his point-forwarding in the second quarter, including a set-up for a monstrous Tristan dunk. Luke registered five assists in his first seven minutes of play; remember, he’s a free agent this offseason, so the team better maintain cap space. Otherwise the quarter started poorly, as Waiters attacked but could not finish, and also rimmed-out an open three. Cleveland’s six points in the first six minutes allowed Boston to mount a 37 to 41 lead. Tristan Thompson scored eight of his twelve second-quarter points in the final six minutes though, to navigate the team to a 54 to 53 half time lead. He finished with 16 for the half; Kevin Garnett was jealous of how smooth Tristan’s shooting has become.
As usual, Cleveland limped out for the third quarter. Boston fueled an early run behind Jeff Green and Avery Bradley three pointers. They built a seven-point lead until Alonzo Gee decimated the Boston defense with filthy drive & dunk. Cleveland embarked on a 7 – 0 run, including an out-of-bounds play drawn up for their go-to-guy: with three seconds on the shot clock, the pass went to Tristan, who left Garnett grasping at air, and threw the hammer down! Cleveland trailed heading into the fourth by a score of 70 to 73.
The first nine minutes of the fourth seesawed back-and-forth, as neither team gained more than a three point lead. Then, the magic started. Kyrie drove and finished to give the Cavs an 84 to 83 lead. Next, Rajon Rondo inexplicably chased down an errant pass and saved the ball to Kyrie alone under the basket: 86 to 83 Cleveland. Kevin Garnett hit two free throws, but then off a Waiters assist, Alonzo Gee pump-faked and dunked to restore the three-point margin. On the ensuing Boston possession, Garnett received a veteran-vs-rookie phantom call, with Tyler Zeller’s clean block ruled a foul. Garnett hit both freebies and Zeller fouled out, replaced by super-sub Luke Walton.
The teams traded misses, until TT grabbed a d-board, handed it to Kyrie…and Irving went coast-to-coast! 90 to 87! On Boston’s possession, Rajon Rondo attempted to one-up his young counter-part, but missed…the ball was tipped, then tipped again, and Luke Walton snagged the clutch rebound! That man is everywhere!
What’s next? Of course, a Kyrie and-one; put this game on ice, tonight’s baddest man alive says the game is over. Cleveland leads by six with twenty-seconds to go and the rest is a formality.
A nice win for the team. Kyrie finished with 40 points on 74% true shooting, including 15 in the fourth quarter. Tristan finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists worth of buttery-slickness. Walton tallied seven assists as the team piled-up 28 on 37 field goals.
Good game. Cavs rule. Celtics stink. Onto some notes:
- Kevin Durant still plays tonight, but Kyrie may very well end up the NBA’s best player today. That happens a few times per season, and is amazing for a twenty year old. With solid defense, what is his ceiling? Top-three NBA player?
- Waiters had an off-night, shooting 3 of 12. Five of his shots were at the rim, though obviously he couldn’t finish. He missed an open three and dished three assists with zero turnovers. One aspect of Dion’s role in the offense that frustrates me, is that when off the ball, he meanders away from the play. He is frequently 30 to 35 feet from the basket when someone else has the ball. The game turns into 4 on 5. He needs to learn / be taught about some action to perform when off-the-ball.
- Zeller played a relatively feisty game, featuring 10 boards, 3 blocks, 4 assists and plus-5 in 38 minutes.
- Did you know that Luke Walton’s effective field goal percentage is 47% in the first half and 32% in the second half? No? Just something I noticed.
- Did you know that in the last 17 games, Tristan has attempted 3.5 shots per first quarter, only been assisted on 29% of his makes, and converts at 42% effective field goal shooting? In the other three quarters, he averages 2.4 shots and is assisted on 46% of his makes with 55% eFG. You hadn’t noticed that? What game are you watching?
- Daniel Gibson returned to the line-up, but ummm, didn’t really do anything.
- Ohio State alum Jared Sullinger posted a double-double, his third in January.