LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 73 points, Dion Waiters poured in 19 off the bench and the Cavs' defense tightened up in the final quarter as Cleveland extended its winning streak to three games, knocking off the Minnesota Timberwolves 125-104 Tuesday night in the Q.
The game marked the first of two meetings between the franchises that stole offseason headlines by swapping a superstar (Kevin Love) for two number one picks (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins). While the players themselves have handled things professionally - Love speaks well enough of the Wolves, Wiggins and Bennett claim no hard feelings towards the Cavs - it's always interesting to see players who went opposite ways in a trade share the floor against one another.
Love had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes, hitting 9 of 11 free throws and causing problems for whoever the Wolves tried to throw at him. One of the guys assigned to guarding Love was Anthony Bennett, who was positively miserable in his return to Cleveland. His missed all four shots he attempted, turned the ball over twice, commited five fouls and was a minus-27 (!!!) in 11:30 on the floor.
The other former Cavalier (however briefly it lasted) had a much better evening. Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting and had a few particularly nice drives to the rim in what was, undoubtedly, his finest game of the season.
But he was no match for LeBron, who was a cold-blooded assassin in his 34 minutes. Every time the Cavs needed a little more breathing room, he'd knock down a three. His first triple pushed the lead to seven with 6:30 left in the first half, and another extended the Cavs' lead to 8 right before the break. Halfway through the third quarter, the Wolves having battled all the way back to a one point deficit, Lebron hit an isolation 3-pointer after an offensive possession broke down, making it a four point game. James' final three came in the middle of the 13-0 run at the end of the third quarter which essentially put the game out of reach.
Kyrie feasted on Minnesota's dismal point guard defense (LaVine is thin and inexperienced, Mo is old and slow) to the tune of 29 points, Tristan Thompson led the team in plus/minus (+25 in 26 minutes) and Dion Waiters poured in 19 points and added 4 assists, including a sweet dime in transition for a LeBron slam. While it took the Cavs a little longer than they probably would have liked, they eventually took over and put away the hapless (5-22) Timberwolves.
A few other odds and ends:
- Anderson Varejao left the game with an ankle or foot injury and was seen postgame in a walking boot. I'm sure we'll find out more in the next 24-36 hours. Cross your fingers.
- Kevin Love also had to leave the game at one point with a hand injury, but returned, his hand and wrist heavily bandaged, and seemed to play just fine.
- Everyone who suited up wound up playing in this game. That was kind of interesting.
- Mike Miller started the game at shooting guard, but picked up three fouls in the game's first four minutes and wasn't really seen much after that.
- Now that this one is over, it's LeBron's turn for an awkward reunion as the Cavs travel to Miami for a Christmas Day showdown with the Heat. Should be a fun one.