It's sad that very little footage exists of the ABA, because according to pretty much everyone involved, it was wild. There were superstar players, there was a whole lot of flair, and there was very little defense. Every once in awhile, an NBA game will conjure up the ghosts of that now-defunct league, a modern visage of that bygone era where shootouts were the norm and style was paramount.
This was one of those games.
Kyrie Irving had 37 points on just 18 shots, LeBron James put up 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Tristan Thompson recorded his 10th double-double of the season as the Cavaliers fought back for a 126-121 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night at Staples Center.
LeBron and Kyrie provided most of the aforementioned flair, the former wowing the crowd with acrobatic drives to the hoop and wild passes through traffic, the latter dazzling defenders with crossovers, hesitation moves and clutch pull-up threes. It was shocking how nimble and explosive LeBron looked; clearly his time off did wonders for him. Kyrie played loose and free, particularly victimizing the Clipper coach's poor son,
who in true ABA fashion, was forced to play in the game because a few of the Los Angeles players were missing due to their Greyhound bus breaking down on its way out of Louisville.
The pace was breakneck right from the start - the Clippers in particular tried to push the ball up the floor, manufacturing "transition" possessions even off of made baskets or sideline out of bounds plays. The Cavs had plenty of problems - they turned it over 20 times (LeBron had 9 turnovers himself), struggled to deal with both Blake Griffin in the post and on pick and pops and couldn't contain J.J. Redick from getting open looks from the corner three spots.
Even Cleveland's end of game sequences were a mix of good and bad - Matthew Dellavedova split a pair of important free throws, but atoned by knocking down both on a separate trip shortly after. Mike Miller made a costly mistake turning the ball over, giving the Clippers life, but a sweet out of bounds play after a timeout (featuring a bullet pass from LeBron to a wide open Tristan Thompson underneath the basket) helped seal the deal.
After a tumultuous beginning to their West Coast swing, the Cavaliers won both ends of their Staples Center back-to-back and head home to start a four game home stand with a little momentum. Ten of the team's next thirteen games will be played at the Q - perhaps the past two nights in Los Angeles are a springboard to something bigger for the wine and gold.