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Three things I think we learned from the Cavs Christmas win over the Warriors

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It’s just one regular season game, but the Cavs might be able to take some things from their Christmas day win

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We’re a day removed from the Cleveland Cavaliers incredible home victory over the Golden State Warriors, and the fallout should be interesting. Both teams came into the game rolling, and both teams played really well for stretches during the game. You don’t see that type of intensity in a lot of regular season NBA games. It’s a mistake to read too much into any one game, but let’s take a look at what we might have learned yesterday.

The Cavs can get away with playing Kevin Love and Channing Frye

The Warriors are famous for their ability to play Draymond Green at center and spread the floor with insane shooting and passing. With so much skill and athleticism, teams that have tried to play traditionally with two bigs, or even with one big lacking athleticism, have struggled to keep up. Many of these bigs have found themselves literally run off the floor. This happened to the Cavs in the 2015 NBA Finals, when Timofey Mozgov was forced to the bench.

With Kevin Durant, the idea was that things would be even more difficult for opponents. Green at center, Durant at power forward, and some combination of the Warriors guards and wings would be too much. On Christmas, the Cavs survived. Kevin Love was not run off the floor, and neither was Channing Frye. Tristan Thompson, Love, and Frye combined for 77 minutes, and Love was a team-best +12.

Whereas the Cavs have sought out specific one-on-one matchups they like offensively and tried to attack (often as simple as finding where Stephen Curry is), the Warriors have been reticent to do this. The Cavs collecting 18 offensive rebounds helped keep the Warriors out of transition, and they kept their turnovers reasonably down. Frye and Love give Kyrie Irving and LeBron James outlets for passes on drives, or space at the rim to attack; if they can stay in the game, it’s a huge win for the Cavs.

LeBron James gets you in the game; the Cavs need Kyrie to be magnificent for positive outcomes

Kyrie Irving did not shoot the ball efficiently in this game, and it seemed like he would never get into a rhythm. After a couple misses and Warriors makes, a Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love led Cavs lineup nearly lost contact with Golden State with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Even as his shot struggled to go down (and Klay Thompson lost him a few times for open corner threes), he was helping out offensively in other ways. He finished with 10 assists to just two turnovers, and came up with three offensive rebounds as well.

The Cavs rebounding success and LeBron James’ third quarter had kept the Cavs within shouting distance. From there, Irving kept probing and attacking and dishing. He found a cutting LeBron James for a dunk through two Warriors. He forced Stephen Curry off the floor late, and made an impossible turnaround over Klay Thompson that would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t done it over and over again just six months ago. The Cavs were down in the Finals 3-1, and Irving was a big part of that. For better or worse, the Cavs need him. He was good enough yesterday, and he’s developing a nice track record.

The Warriors will be favored in a possible Finals matchup - but the Cavs have earned some respect

I sent that out sometime during the fourth quarter yesterday. Despite the Cavs shooting horribly (and some credit goes to the Warriors for this), they had had hung around and played tough. The Warriors still have four players who by nearly any standard are among the top 20 players in the world. The Cavs, probably, have three. LeBron James is still the guy you want in a seven game series, but Kevin Durant is high up on the list. At some point, you’d think Stephen Curry plays to his ability and breaks through.

The Cavs went on their run and pulled the game out. It’s just one game, but a lot of NBA observers are perhaps going to re-think just where they have LeBron’s team, and what kind of chances they really have in June. Most will still pick the Warriors, and that makes sense. But I think I’m more confident than I was yesterday that we could be inching towards another classic Finals showdown.