The Cleveland Cavaliers have had plenty of solid outings offensively this season. The Cavs have the league's 2nd-most efficient offense, after all. There have been no shortage of solid performances on that end this season, from Kyrie Irving's two 50+ point games, to the 129-90 explosion against the Charlotte Hornets.
Tonight's performance against the Orlando Magic is in that discussion for best offensive performance of the season. Even playing without Kevin Love (rest for his back), the Cavs shot over 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three for most of the game, finishing at 59.2 percent from the field and 51.4 percent from three in a comfortable cruise to a 123-108 victory.
Even though the Cavs started slow, letting Orlando lead for most of the first quarter and take a 28-26 lead through one, the offense eventually started clicking. Kyrie couldn't be stopped in the first half, going 6-7 and 3-3 from three-point range for 14 points. LeBron also had a strong first half, pouring in 15 points on 6-9 shooting. The Cavs were able to convert several transition looks and established a fantastic drive-and-kick game that resulted in several open threes, and tightened their defensive effort. Even after the slow start, the Cavs took a 66-55 halftime lead thanks to a 40-point second quarter effort. Even a rare outburst from Luke Ridnour (10 points on 4-5 shooting off the bench) couldn't keep the Magic in the race.
In the third, Kyrie kept cooking, and J.R. Smith heated up as LeBron shifted to more of a facilitating role. J.R. hit 3-6 threes in the third, and had one of those games J.R.'s been having about once every two weeks this season: 25 points on 14 shots, including 6 threes. In the fourth, the Magic made a bit of a run behind offense from Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic, and the Magic were able to cut what was a 17-point lead to a 110-101 scare. However, LeBron got a couple of solid drives to the rim, James Jones hits a couple threes, bing bang boom, back to a 15-point lead that the Cavs rode out to the end.
Thoughts from the Game
Kyrie. Freaking. Irving. How do you follow up a 57-point effort against the defending champions? Why, just your average 33 point effort on 12-15 shooting, along with four rebounds and four assists. Kyrie simply couldn't miss from three, and he was getting to the rim at will with Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, two promising young defenders in their own right, checking him. I mean......just.....*fans self*
The bench was also phenomenal tonight, from top to bottom. James Jones had 12 points on 4-8 shooting, ripping those two clutch threes down the stretch to extend the lead. Matthew Dellavedova was mostly a positive in his time on the floor. Iman Shumpert locked down Oladipo and added three steals on the defensive end to go along with eight points, six rebounds, and three assists. Kendrick Perkins played well in garbage time. Just a great performance for the bench, which says a lot considering Love was out and Shawn Marion didn't play.
It was pretty easy to see that the Cavs were able to adjust to the Magic's game plan as the game went on. Orlando was abusing Cleveland early on the offensive glass, because the Cavs were leaking out for fast break chances a little too much. It led to a few nice highlights for LeBron and Shumpert, but the Magic were also getting a lot of good second chance looks, and converting them. The Cavs adjusted by reigning in the transition game, and while Orlando got 17 offensive boards, the Magic only managed 19 second-chance points, most of which came in the first quarter. Similarly, I liked how the Cavs started varying their pick and roll coverage in the second half, switching sometimes and agressively hedging others. The Magic were simply baffled offensively for most of the game, because they didn't really get any good secondary actions going after the Cavs got their pick-and-roll coverage down.
Weird game for Tristan Thompson tonight. He played 30 minutes, but only managed four points and three rebounds in that time. The Cavs just didn't seem to be able to get him good looks in the post, and while he put things together defensively as the game went on, Vucevic really seemed to eat his lunch early. On the plus side, the Cavs experimented with more small-ball lineups with #StretchFourJamesJones, and the fact that the Cavs were shooting $Texas from the field probably signficantly limited his usefulness on the offensive glass. Willing to give him a pass tonight.
The Cavs have a good chance to sweep their Sunshine State Swing tomorrow night against the Miami Heat. While Hassan Whiteside is still a thing, and Goran Dragic is always scary, Miami's been mostly forgettable since Chris Bosh went down. If they play similarly to how they did tonight offensively, I have my doubts that the Heat can keep up.