The Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to San Antonio Thursday night to take on the defending champion Spurs. With both teams (almost) healthy, it would prove to be a true test of where the team stands in the title race.
The game was electric from the moment the ball was tipped off. With both teams firing on all cylinders, there was no shortage of buckets early on. The elite matchups weren't hard to find. Whether it be LeBron James against finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love against Tim Duncan or below the rim magicians Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker, this one was impressive from the start. With the execution of the Spurs and the talent to the Cavaliers, there was no stopping of either team no matter how good the defense was.
The second half featured a lot of the same play as the first half. Both teams displayed fantastic offense. But no matter how close the Cavs got, they never seemed able to get over the hump and regain the lead. The Spurs seemed like they would be able to survive every push by the Cavaliers. However, the Cavs were able to finally break through in the final minute of the game. A sensational three pointer from Kyrie Irving forced overtime and gave the Cavs new life.
In overtime, the insanity that is Kyrie Irving continued. He was perfect from the three, going 7/7 for the night. He was a ruthless assassin hitting cold blooded shot after cold blooded shot. The Cavs were ultimately able to rally and come away with the OT win.
Thoughts from the game:
- The Cavs offense continues to perform at an incredible level with Kyrie Irving on the court. The game got off to a break-neck pace offensively, but that tempo was reduced dramatically as soon as Irving checked out of the game. As dynamic as LeBron James is, having Irving on the floor just adds so many dimensions to the offense and it is so tough to contend with. Irving had a career high 57 points on the night and was once again a major catalyst for the team. [Editor's note: Kyrie was a goddamn madman]
- LeBron James was also incredibly active on the night. He and Kawhi were going at each other the entire night, exchanging highlight after highlight. Leonard seemed to fully embrace the matchup and had a sensational game with 31 points and 7 assists. While James started off hot, he seemed to disengage as the game wore on. Some part of that might be the play of Kyrie Irving, but it's probably safe to assume that we'll see more consistent performances out of him once the playoffs arrive.
- The Spurs are still the class of the NBA. While they may not be dominant throughout the whole season, they still have perfect communication on offense and defense and get the absolute most out of their roster. The Cavs are playing at an extremely high level, but they have yet to achieve the level of synergy that the Spurs have made their signature. It's something that comes with time, but it's still incredibly impressive to watch.
- Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were sensational. They were dominant throughout the whole night and made clutch plays when needed. Whether it be crucial rebounds or dagger shots, Duncan and Parker have been there before and came through when it mattered.
- Kevin Love still didn't see any minutes in the fourth quarter. He did get some burn in overtime and played well. But his absence in the fourth quarter seems inexcusable. No matter how well Tristan Thompson or James Jones played, Kevin Love is too talented of a player to stay shackled on the bench.