Kevin Love was out, and LeBron James hadn't been great this season against the Miami Heat.
The former didn't end up mattering, and the latter was reversed on Thursday night as the Cavs beat up on a team they might see in the first round of the playoffs in a couple weeks. It helped that Dwyane Wade left the game in the 2nd quarter and didn't return (and we hope he is okay), but the Cavs were focused.
Your Cleveland Cavaliers 114, the Miami Heat 88.
We will start with James, whose game was understated but effective. He filled up the stat sheet and passed Patrick Ewing as the NBA's 20th leading scorer of all time. 23 points on 16 shots, eight rebounds, seven assists, three blocks. He gambled a little bit defensively in the first half, but that's kind of what he does. All in all, it's incredibly effective. He and Kyrie Irving have reached a level where they can both speak their minds freely on the court, and I think it's a great sign.
Irving's third quarter was tremendous. He missed some jump shots late in the fourth, but when the game was still in doubt he was efficient and set up teammates well. He took some risks offensively that led to turnovers, but he's still learning to probe defenses. To a certain extent, though, this game was about the role players. The Cavs got great performances from a number of players, but Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert really stand out.
Shumpert had four steals and made three three-pointer. He got the Cavs out in transition and coming off an ankle injury it was fantastic to see. He was shooting 34% on threes coming into the game which toes the line of what's acceptable and what isn't, but usually you just take his defense. When he hits the threes at a high rate? He's a great player. Dellavedova hit some threes as well, but his set ups for Tristan Thompson in the pick and roll were maybe the most fun part of the game.
Thompson was all over the place on both ends of the court. Eight points on four shots, 15 rebounds. Hassan Whiteside was good tonight, but Thompson put pressure on him all night on the offensive glass. He had help from Mozgov, who had a really nice game. His box score stats don't jump out at you, but his rim protection was helpful and I thought he boxed out very well.
Solid win for the Cavs overall, who have now won 49 on the season. They can really put a stranglehold on the 2nd seed with a win on Sunday over the Bulls. We will see you tomorrow.