In the NBA there are schedule wins. The opposing team is on the road, second night of a back to back. Perhaps it’s their fourth game in five nights. Perhaps they are trying to get guys some rest. Tonight, the Boston Celtics were missing Al Horford and Jae Crowder. They had a hard fought win over the Chicago Bulls last night.
This was a schedule win for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They took care of business, leading for much of the night and withstanding a fourth quarter challenge. Your Cleveland Cavaliers 128, the Boston Celtics 122.
It’s worth noting that the strength of this Boston Celtics team is their depth. Lacking a superstar, they have guys up and down the roster that can contribute. If there is a team that can handle losing Horford, Crowder, and even Kelly Olynyk, it’s the Celtics. This was not a lottery team the Cavs played tonight.
LeBron James was dominant, even as he scored just six points in the first half. He followed that up with 20 points in the third quarter alone, ultimately finishing with 30 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds. He controlled the action, paced himself, and generally found ways to surpass the expectations of even those who watch him on a nightly basis. If the Cavs do win 60+ games, and LeBron has 30 or so more of these performances, it’s hard to see anyone else winning the MVP.
James was helped in stretches of inspired play from Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Thompson nearly had a double-double in the first quarter, pulling down 10 rebounds. Irving had his full offensive repertoire on display in the second quarter. James didn’t let anyone get in his way in the third, but Love consistently found his way to the free throw line; he was 12-13 from there, and somehow had 26 points on 15 shots despite being 5-15 from the field.
Iman Shumpert remains disappointing, and Jaylen Brown and Avery Bradley made a bunch of jump shots. The Celtics are a decent team. This wasn’t a blow out, but it also never really was in doubt. See you tomorrow.
UPDATE: I’m probably too tough on Iman, who put together a nice second half and stayed in the game for crunch time. I didn’t love his defense in the first half, and the Celtics went on a run in the 2nd quarter with him at point guard. He has asked to play point guard two years in a row, and has been disappointing there whenever he gets the opportunity. Perhaps the wrong game to pick on him, but if he wants to be a secondary point guard in the league, the year has not started how he would have wanted it to.