The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to extend their winning streak to seven games Tuesday night, just one short of their season high streak of eight games. It wasn't the dominant offensive outing that we've seen during this stretch, but it was a gritty battle featuring sound team defense and just enough offense to get the job done.
The opening minutes of the game resembled a brick laying competition with both teams exchanging misses. While the Cavs were missing a lot of open jumpers and shots near the rim, they made up for it by rotating well on the defensive ends and limiting the amount of quality looks. While they did face a small deficit early on, they were able to turn it up in the second quarter and sustain the lead.
The Pistons did battle back a few times. But every time they cut it close, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James would snatch the hope from their eyes. Whether it be cold blooded threes, or the freight train that is James going to the tin... the Cavs just seemed to keep their composure and a firm grip on the game.
While LeBron did take a spill late in the third quarter, he managed to stay in the game for the rest of it and showed limited ill-effects. While I'm sure there will be some horrendous news that comes to life the second this recap is posted, he looks fine to me!
Thoughts from the game:
- There are players that dominate you with size, strength and athleticism. That make you feel like there's nothing you can do to stop them. Then there's Kyrie Irving. When he gets into a zone, he uses his change of pace, ball handling and laser shot to make a defender feel hopeless. On a night that most players struggled with their shot, he went video game. It was a treat.
- Healthy LeBron James is a different animal than injured hampered LeBron. He consistently applied pressure to Detroit's defense by driving to the rim and forcing them to collapse. 32 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds... LeBron is good.
- Kevin Love still appears to be laboring out on the court. While he is still battling for rebounds and on defense (yes, I said on defense), his shot just isn't falling and he appears to be reluctant to take shots as a result of it. While his numbers should warrant some All-Star consideration, it'd be nice to see him get some time to rest and get right before the final stretch of the season. Like LeBron, he's so talented that he's going to produce when he isn't 100%. But he can play at a much higher level than the one he is currently at.
- J.R. Smith came back down to Earth tonight. He took a few bad shots, but overall he mostly was taking shots within the flow of the offense. He's J.R.
- Unlike the Cavs previous winning streak, the quality of these wins and the eye test on both ends of the court is significantly better this time around. They will face a true test tomorrow against the Portland Trailblazers, but it feels like they are building towards something with each game and figuring out to play the right way.