With all the recent drama and the Toronto Raptors hot on their tails, it certainly felt like the Cleveland Cavaliers could use a definitive blowout victory on national television. Conveniently, that's exactly what they got as they dominated the Washington Wizards, 108-83 on Friday night.
While Kevin Love rested on the front end of the back-to-back, Tyronn Lue switched up the starting lineup, playing Iman Shumpert at small forward and LeBron James (19 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) at power forward. LeBron at the 4 is something that most Cavs fans have been clamoring for and it worked out swimmingly. By inserting Shumpert into the starting lineup, the Cavs were able to switch him onto John Wall and hide Kyrie Irving (21 points, 8 assists) on Garrett Temple immediately. The adjustment by Lue allowed the Cavs to matchup better with the Wizards' small lineup & jumpstarted the offense. The Cavs got out in transition early, controlled the paint, and played sharp defense to stifle Washington on the offense end.
The Cavs had three days off before this game against the Wizards and it definitely showed. If you've paid attention to this team the past year and half, you know that when LeBron is locked in, the rest of the team follows. Unfortunately for the Wizards, LeBron was locked in and got off to a hot start with back-to-back breakaway dunks.
If we're being honest, there's not a ton to analyze in this game. The Cavs executed brilliantly on offense and knocked down open shots, shooting 12 of 27 from behind the arc. It's great to see Tyronn Lue make some savvy coaching adjustments, even if I'd prefer to see Channing Frye play more at center. Timofey Mozgov seemingly remembered to bring his hands with him tonight and ended up having one of his better offensive showings.
I've been dying to see more Kyrie/LeBron pick and rolls because I just don't know how anybody in the league defends against that. There's been more of it lately and especially tonight with LeBron playing power forward. The Wizards didn't have any answer for it as the Cavs ran away in the second half. As LeBron played closer to the rim on defense, he was able to get more rebounds and lead the break. And as we all know, LeBron in the open court is an unstoppable freight train of doom.
Up until tonight, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of playing Washington in the first round of the playoffs. I know it's not smart to let one game drastically change your opinion, but the adjustments that Lue made were significant. Admitting that Shumpert is better suited to guard Wall and downsizing to match the quickness of Washington's starting unit are great moves. It gives me confidence that Lue will be able to make the necessary changes once we get to the playoffs. The Cavs have a roster that lets them play in a variety of ways, but it's up to the coaching staff to find the best way to utilize all of their players.
I know I've buried the lede and I apologize for that so here it is: SASHA FUCKING KAUN SCORED. SHUT IT DOWN. LET'S GO HOME.
The Cavaliers welcome the Boston Celtics to town tomorrow evening. If you remember, the Celtics beat the Cavs on an Avery Bradley buzzer-beater the last time these two teams met. Lue has already confirmed that nobody will be resting tomorrow. The Cavs have revenge on their minds.
Just ask Austin Carr:
Celts win tonight well it's on tomorrow , it's payback time.— Austin Carr (@MrCavalier34) March 5, 2016
PS: I miss you all dearly. Be good. Go Cavs.