The Cleveland Cavaliers trailed the Orlando Magic 74-65 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. But, thanks mostly to LeBron James, the Cavs were able to outscore the Magic by 13 points in the fourth quarter to get the win on the road. It was a win they needed after losing in Miami yesterday.
LeBron finished the game with 29 points (I believe he had 15 in the fourth) on 10-20 shooting with eight assists, five boards, two blocks, and two steals. With Kyrie Irving sitting out after tweaking his knee last night and Kevin Love sitting on the bench for the entire fourth quarter (more on that in a moment), it really was all LeBron down the stretch.
He wasn't perfect; he was 0-5 on threes and he had four turnovers. Still, even on nights when LeBron isn't completely focussed, and even if his athleticism isn't quite what it used to be, he still has the ability to make me say "Wow" out loud four or five times every game. Tonight was no exception.
Dion Waiters was also an important part of tonight's win. For the second game in a row, he gave a lot of effort on defense. He had three steals, and he forced Orlando into a lot of tough shots. Offensively, he scored 17 points on 6-14 shooting. I don't have the exact breakdown in front of me, but it seemed like he was taking most of his shots near the rim.
And then there is the Love situation. He scored 17 points in the first half, and then finished the game with just 22. He didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. This led to some hot takes on the internet:
Kevin Love's future is officially getting interesting. Not playing in 4th Q in Orlando??? That's it, I'm cuing up the Trade Machine.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 27, 2014
It's definitely misguided to read too much into anything from one quarter. The lineup that was out there for the Cavs got them back into the game, and then got them the lead, and David Blatt just decided to stick with them.
But it would also be misguided to assume that everything is fine. Clearly, the Cavs haven't yet figured out how to maximize Love's immense offensive talent. He's mostly been reduced to just shooting a bunch of jumpers this season. This is one of the several things they need to figure out if they are going to be a serious championship contender.
Though I should say that this also seems worth noting:
Kevin Love has not played at all in the fourth quarter, yet he has been engaged and supportive on the bench. He has 22 points and 7 boards.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 27, 2014
With this win, the Cavs at least got rid of some of the bad taste that was left in their mouths after the loss on Christmas. It wasn't beautiful basketball by any means, but it was better than a loss. Sometimes good teams play poorly and still find a way to win. It would just have been nice if the Cavs had been able to do that yesterday as well.
Next, the Cavs will host the Pistons on Sunday afternoon.