The Cavs were in control, up 72-48, playing with pace and getting defensive stops. A sloppy offensive play led to a three on one break from the Utah Jazz on a lonely Kyrie Irving. Gordon Hayward attempted a lob for an easy alley hoop to Derrick Favors.
But Kyrie jumped. There were four minutes left in the third quarter, but the game was over. Kyrie jumped and got a hand on it. Jazz players went to converge on the ball but out of nowhere, J.R. Smith appeared and knocked the ball the other way. Tristan Thompson had not given up on the play. He added a third hustle play and scooped up Smith's tip. Kyrie, playing through the flu, didn't see any need to rest on disrupting the play. Full speed, he took an awkward handoff from the perennially awkward Thompson. Kyrie's feed to Kevin Love, a touch pass while he moved a little faster than the Blue Streak at Cedar Point on that rickety first drop, was not awkward. Kevin Love finished it for a dunk.
It was fun. It was supreme effort from multiple players. It looked like this.
There were several highlight reel plays in a 106-92 victory over the Utah Jazz. This one stood out.
This team is what we obsessed over LeBron-watch for. This team is why we pulled out our hair waiting on the Kevin Love trade to go through, excited, but not sure it would pay off. It's mid-January. The weather is cold, the roads icy. I sit next to a space heater as I type this. I'm also thrilled.
Every Cavs starter scored 15 points, and every Cavs starter played with defensive intensity. LeBron James was the maestro. 26 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, seven turnovers, four steals. He was dialed in on Gordon Hayward, who had not-so-sagely indicated he was past his days of being bullied by James. He consistently set up and rewarded Timofey Mozgov for getting inside position and running the floor. But James got help.
Kevin Love's three point shot wasn't falling, and he still scored 19 points on 15 shots. He blocked shots, worked hard, made ridiculous bullet passes 80 feet to LeBron James on post patterns for dunks. Kyrie Irving? In absolute control, as he also battled the flu. 18 points, 13 shots, five assists, zero turnovers. Oh, five steals.
Mozgov figured to have a tough night. Derrick Favors is no slouch. He was physical, scored 16 points and sprinkled in some jumpers, pulled down 11 rebounds, blocked two shots. It was valuable.
J.R. supplied energy and Tristan supplied energy. The Jazz went on runs, and Enes Kanter had too much fun on the offensive boards. Mostly, though, this is the team that warranted our optimism.
What'd you guys see?