The Cavaliers came home to Quicken Loans Arena in need of a win to avoid dropping three straight games. They knew it wouldn't be easy since they'd have to find a way to become the first team to beat the 3-0 Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately, it looked like it was going to be easy for a while. The Cavs led by as much as 23 points in the second half, but utterly collapsed down the stretch. They turned the ball over at an unbelievable rate and allowed the Wolves to get back into the game. A 17-2 run late in the fourth quarter gave the Wolves a chance to win the game with 11 seconds left. The Cavs defense was able to hold and they escaped with a 93-92 win.
The first quarter was played at a ridiculous pace. Both teams were running up and down the floor and taking quick shots. The Cavs didn't play great transition defense and got burned on a couple of spectacular outlet passes. I pointed this out on Twitter, but you know that annoying "delay of game" call that the officials are emphasizing this year? It's to allow for those types of plays. I'm sure Kevin Love absolutely adores that rule because he's probably the best at tossing half court outlet passes in the entire league. Eventually the Cavs figured things out and started to lock down on defense, holding the Wolves to 29.3% shooting in the first half.
Thanks to some stifling defense, dominating rebounding (27-12 in the first half), and some obviously tired legs from Minny on the second night of a back-to-back, the Cavs built a solid 55-38 lead going into the break.
The second half wasn't as smooth. As I said before, they committed a ton of turnovers -- 23 in total. Much of that blame goes to Kyrie Irving since he had 9 turnovers on his own. It was real ugly. Unforced turnovers led to easy fast break points for the Wolves. I don't care how good your defense is, you aren't going to stop teams if they are running in transition off turnovers for an entire quarter. The offense stalled in the end of the fourth quarter, but the defense was pretty solid when Minnesota wasn't getting free baskets off turnovers. The Wolves shot just 36.2% from the field as a team.
In Andrew Bynum's first stint, he looked enormous as always. He just creates matchup problems as soon as he steps on the floor. Gorgui Dieng had no choice but to foul him twice once Bynum got early position.
C.J. Miles continues to have a stellar start to the season. He's taking good shots and more importantly, hitting them. He's deadly from behind the arc and has already thrown down two impressive dunks. I know some people are clamoring for him to be inserted into the starting lineup, but I love having him come off the bench.
One of the big things that happened in this game was an increase in minutes for Andrew Bynum. After sitting out the second night of a back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers, Bynum played his usual 8-ish minutes in the first half. In his two previous games, that's all he did. But tonight he came back into the game in the second half. When he came back, he was still enormous. This was his first double-digit scoring night for the Cavs. If he can slowly work his way back to 80% of what he was two years ago, it will make this Cavs team so much better.
Tristan Thompson's defense continues to be pretty great. He went toe to toe with the NBA's leading scorer and basically shut him down. Kevin Love was averaging just under 30 points a game before tonight's game, but Tristan did more than hold his own. Love finished with just 17 points on 8 of 20 shooting.
It was a really close call, but the Cavs came out with a win. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of panicking from Cavs fans about Anthony Bennett's slow start and Dion Waiters, but they just beat a team that was previously 3-0. I know the end of the game was ugly, but the Cavs outplayed a pretty good team for 40 minutes. The team is 2-2 and will get better. Take a deep breath and enjoy the win.