Rest assured, Cavaliers fans - this year's edition of the Wine and Gold still know how to win basketball games. In an effort reminiscent of many of the 66 wins from last season, the Cavaliers slowly, methodically beat down on a young, talented - but overmatched - Minnesota Timberwolves team 104-87. For the Cavaliers it was a job well done - mission accomplished. Sometimes the hardest win is the first even when you know there will be more to come.
Tonight the Cavaliers looked like a team - and it goes deeper than the level of opposition. The Cavaliers looked much more comfortable in their own skin - finding the roles that will take them where they are going to go this season.
I'll start with the obvious - Shaquille O'Neal. It was obvious that Shaq was trying to do too much - and perhaps the Cavaliers were trying too hard to feed him the ball. Through the first two games, Shaq was averaging 27 minutes and about 12 shots per game. Tonight, Shaq played 19 minutes, and took 6 shots - scoring 6 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. That is more of how I thought Shaq would be used. He was open to passing out of the post - often to open players. Often the Cavs - Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson - were hitting those shots. If they didn't, Shaq was there to grab the rebound. That is how I thought this Shaq-deal would work
LeBron got to take the 4th quarter off, which was a welcome sight. He undoubtedly set the tone, however, in the first quarter that saw him score 11 points. You got the feeling that James was going to do whatever it took to win tonight - be it score 50 points or simplye what he did - 24 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in 33 minutes.
The defense was also back to form. While the 2nd quarter was once again a work-in-progress(29 points allowed), the Cavaliers were solid in the 2nd half again - 40 points allowed - and for the game held the Wolves to 42% shooting(21% from deep).
The Cavaliers had 5 players in doubles figures led by LeBron(24 points), Mo Williams(20 points), Zydrunas Ilgauskas(15 points), Daniel Gibson(14 points) and Anderson Varejao(13 points). The bench stepped up as well, scoring a combined 35 points.
The Cavaliers are not a finished product, of course, but it was good to see positive signs, and felt great to get a win. The Cavs won't have much time to enjoy it, however. The team is likely already on its way back to Cleveland for a date with the Bobcats tomorrow night.