Tonight, two teams came into Quicken Loans Arena in need of a win. The Cavaliers had lost six of their last nine games, and their lead in the Eastern Conference was down to just two games over the Celtics. The Pistons, winners of four of their last five, are locked in a tight playoff race down at the other end of the conference.
Both teams needed the win, but it was the Cavs that got it. And they got it rather easily, by a final score of 128-96.
It was a cold night in Cleveland, so the Cavs tried to warm things up with their bright orange throwback jerseys. Their shooting responded—they were hot right from the tip. They scored 44 points in the first quarter. They made their first ten three-pointers. At halftime, they were up by 26 points.
Now, we’ve seen this movie before. The Cavs often take big leads early, but they don’t always hold them. It was easy to assume it would happen again:
Shooting will cool off, Pistons will come back, Cavs will squeak out a win. LeBron will play 39 minutes. Cavs are pretty predictable.— Mike Mayer (@MikeMayer_) March 14, 2017
But not this time! The Cavs managed to keep it going in the second half and cruise to an easy win.
And LeBron only played 28 minutes. However, that didn’t stop him from posting a triple-double, as he finished with 16 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving added 26 points, Iman Shumpert chipped in 18, and J.R. Smith, playing in his first home game since coming back from injury, hit three three-pointers and finished with 12 points.
The game was so lopsided that Larry Sanders unexpectedly made his debut, playing two minutes and picking up two fouls. It may not seem like much, but those were Sanders’s first two minutes in the NBA since December 23, 2014. It’s a start.
Part of the story tonight was the Cavs’ hot shooting. They hit 60 percent of their shots from the floor and were 19-for-30 (63 percent) from downtown. But they also played better defense, and didn’t get completely smoked on the glass they way they did against Houston.
The bottom line is that this was a dominant performance, the type the Cavs should deliver on a regular basis, but haven’t for awhile. We’ll see if they can keep it going on Thursday night when they host the Jazz.