New York, New York --
The Cleveland Cavaliers improved to 35-22 on Sunday afternoon with a strong performance over the reeling New York Knicks. In truth, the game was really over before it even started. I'm not kidding, a media member next to me on press row started typing his recap about the streaking Cavs' win thirty minutes before tip. The game was played, of course, and the Cleveland basketball team won easily . Kevin Love played well, Kyrie Irving dazzled with his handle and creation, and J.R. Smith wowed the crowd with multiple insane dunks, including a reverse alley-hoop that brought the Madison Square Garden crowd out of hibernation in the 4th quarter.
JR SMASH! #Cavs RT @Le_BR_on: Shumpert to Smith! #WOW https://t.co/iAotEGbYu7— Eric Knappenberger (@CavsWITNESS) February 22, 2015
The Cavs were bumping pregame, with Snoop Dogg and 50 cent blasting in the locker room as David Blatt addressed the media. It carried over onto the court. It's not quite the showtime Lakers, but the Cavs have had the best offense in the NBA since January 15 and it's a fun brand of basketball. Lobs, dunks, backdoor cuts off Kevin Love and LeBron James facilitation, and of course Kyrie Irving shooting and handling and yes, passing. The Knicks are bad, of course, but this afternoon's game made it clear that 75% of the Cavs attention was all that they'd need.
Love was terrific, scoring 16 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. He didn't turn the ball over, and got the Cavs out in transition with his outlet passing. Usually teams ask guards to punch down and rebound to try and facilitate quick and early offense. With Love, you get the luxury of avoiding that but still getting the transition basketball. It's neat, and another reason why he's so valued.
Kyrie Irving took over in the third quarter, and finished with 18 points on 10 shots. He didn't score a ton, but in brief spurts you saw the entire genius of his game. He dribbles, of course, but he did it to set up Mozgov for an easy dunk, he got to the free throw line, he hit spot up threes, he hit a three off the dribble. At 22 he's likely to keep evolving, but he's close to a complete offensive player right now.
And what of LeBron James? 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and 0 fourth quarter minutes. The most noteworthy thing he did in the fourth was embrace Kevin Love on the bench, and greet J.R. Smith with a bear hug after his huge dunk. Smith's game itself should be celebrated. His true shooting rate is over five points better than it was when he was a New York Knick this season, and he had 17 points on 11 shots, four assists, one turnover, two blocks and a steal. He was phenomenal. You knew he was excited to get back to the Garden.
I'll have more notes in the coming days after talking to Mike Miller, James Jones and Joe Harris before the game.