Wherever the Cleveland Cavaliers finish this season -- as NBA champions for the first time in franchise history or a second consecutive failed trip to the NBA Finals -- will be determined by the play of their big three; LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. When they're all on, it makes the Cavs extremely tough to beat. When they're off, however, it only makes it that much tougher for them to win against the league's elite teams.
Against one of those elite teams, the San Antonio Spurs, who had beat the Cavs just 16 days ago, the Cavs got plenty of the former, as the trio of James, Love and Irving combined for 71 points in the Cavs 117-103 home win over the Spurs.
This was the second consecutive night in which the big three all scored 20 points after they combined for 79 points in last night's win over the Detroit Pistons. The difference, however, was how each of them went about scoring their points, taking their turn at certain points of the game.
Love got the ball rolling for the Cavs, scoring 18 points the first half, including 11 points in the first seven minutes of the first quarter, doing so in ways that have made one of the best offensive players in the league, and the player the Cavs have expected from Love. He was finishing around the rim, hitting Dirk-like jumpers from the midrange, and extended his range behind the three-point line, connecting on 3-of-his-6 three-point attempts.
After letting Love get his own looks in the first half, James came out of halftime looking to work himself in the action. James had a rough start to the game shooting, but was effective moving the ball. But in the third quarter, James was in attack mode throughout the entire quarter. All 16 of his points in the third quarter came from either the free throw line or around the rim.
Then, with the Spurs still hanging on heading into the fourth quarter, James passed the scoring load onto the man whom they call "Mr. Quarter." Similar to James, Irving had struggled coming into the final quarter, entering the fourth with only 11 points. And just like Love and James in their previous quarters, Irving did exactly what makes him a lethal offensive weapon. He constantly dazzled the Spurs defense with his dribbling display, including a hesitation crossover on David West that ended with Irving finishing with an off-hand layup and the foul.
For as good as the big three was for the Cavs tonight, they weren't the only ones that were effective against the Spurs tonight. Matthew Dellavedova had 15 points and three assists off the bench. Tristan Thompson who, despite finishing with a modest seven rebounds, was all over the glass and was a big reason why Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge was limited in the first half with foul trouble.
Overall, this was the Cavs best game of the year, against one of the two best teams of the year. And as it should be, it was the James, Love and Irving at the forefront of the Cavs' success tonight.