It's been said before, and it certainly has been said plenty of times -- the strength of the Cleveland Cavaliers lies in their ability to score points. They have two of the best offensive players in the world in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and when everything is going well for the Cavs, these two are playing well and the offense is scoring points.
Over the last few games, not all of those things have gone the way the Cavs have wanted to, and the result was an offense that needed to break out of a mini-slump. The perfect way to do that? Face a team that coming into said game has astronomically bad on defense of late.
The Cavs got exactly that, going up against a Sacramento Kings team that has allowed every offense it has faced of late to put up superior offensive numbers. It certainly worked for the Cavs, as they were able to get back to their elite levels of offense, leading to a 120-100 win at the Quicken Loans Arena.
Since their dominant offensive performance against the San Antonio Spurs and their top-ranked defense, the Cavs have taken small, yet noticeable step back on the offensive end. The ball was sticking more, which meant fewer passes and even more isolation plays. It was the reason they had struggled in third quarters, and an even bigger reason as to how they've managed to go 2-2 since that Spurs game, despite a favorable schedule for them.
Against the Kings, who came into tonight's game had given up just over 117 points per game over their last eight games, those offensive woes that had haunted them over the past week quickly went away, and it was led by the two players that, when clicking, make this offense a well-oiled machine -- James and Irving. The duo combined for 53 points, 13 rebounds and 22 assists -- more assists than the Cavs have had as a team since they had 22 against the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 1.
Not only were the two able to lead the offensive attack for the Cavs, but also were able to do so in ways that we are accustomed to see them perform. James notched his first triple-double of the season (and the 40th of his career), showcasing his all-around offensive abilities that have been the style of play that most identify him with -- all while doing so with an efficient shooting night (8-of-16 from the field).
Whereas James strength relies in his ability to do pretty much everything (except shoot, because he reeeeealllly can't shoot), it's Irving's scoring ability that has made him one of the best offensive guards in the league. And that's exactly what he gave tonight, scoring 32 points on only 21 shots, while also adding in a season-high 12 assists.
As much as it was moving the ball more on offense to get the Cavs offense rolling again, some of the problems with their scoring problems is the fact Irving hasn't been the three-point shooter this year that he's been over the first four years of his career, as my colleague Carter Rodriguez wrote about (as well as other Cavs shooters) today. And just as much as the the ball movement was in tonight's win, it was Irving rediscovering his three-point shot that has been M.I.A. since he returned in late December, as he hit 5-of-his-8 three-point attempts tonight.
With a very helpful sign that Irving's three-point shot coming back, this could be the beginning of the Cavs returning to their second half form from a year ago. Who cares that it was against a porous Kings defense; sometimes you just need anything to get things rolling. This could be that type of game for them, which bodes well as the All-Star break nears and the final stretches of the regular season begin.
- Speaking of people getting back to what they do well, how about J.R. Smith? He had 22 points tonight and was hitting three-pointers left, right and center (he finished with 6 three's overall). As much that is said about how Smith is a liability to the Cavs, when he's hot, he becomes a serious offensive weapon. He can bail an offense out with his bad-shot making ability and an equally as good spot-up shooter when open.
- Kevin Love didn't play all that well, but he did come back after missing a game with a leg injury he suffered against the Boston Celtics. But when James and Irving play as great as they did tonight, it doesn't really matter how Love plays.
- Mo Williams, he leads all NBA point guards in "midrange pull-up jumpers with plenty of time on the shot clock" (not really), was the only Cavs player to play 10-plus minutes and have a negative plus-minus. That feels right.
- Outside of the Cavs winning a championship, there's nothing more I want in the NBA than to see DeMarcus Cousins on a winning team and in a great situation. The Kings are neither of those things, and it sucks watching him suffer because of it. He's too good (and awesome) to suffer like this, and it's time to get
#FreeBoosie#FreeBoogie campaign going at full force, if it hasn't already.