“That third quarter was the best basketball we’ve played in a long time,” he said.
The Cavs shredded the Magic’s defense for 43 points in the quarter and essentially won the game during those 12 minutes. There were outlet passes from Love, dunks from LeBron James, miscellaneous wizardry from Kyrie Irving and a three-point assault lead by J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver.
For the quarter, the Cavs were 9-13 from three during the quarter with James assisting on five of the threes. Overall, Irving and James combined for 13 assists in the quarter. Smith hit four threes (all on assists from James), Korver and Love each hit two and Irving hit one.
"I looked at [James Jones] and said, 'That's us. That's our basketball. That's the wNoay we're meant to play, how we're supposed to play,'" Love said. "So it felt good to get that great quarter, but now we need to do it for three other quarters."
A number of the Cavs’ best moments came on simple, direct action like this:
Albiet with the caveat since the Magic have one of the league’s worst offenses and missed a number of open shots, Cleveland defense was good in the third as well. Orlando scored just 20 points on 7-20 shooting,
Smith and Korver may have been the key - or at least a big part - of the Cavs’ third quarter run. When they are on the floor together, James and Irving are surrounded by shooters everywhere. Prior to last night, the two had only been healthy at the same time for two games this season. Smith wasn’t at his best when they were.
Last night, the two only played 3:58 together after Korver checked in for James late in the third quarter. But over that span, the team was plus-five and outscored Orlando by 23 in the third. Magic coach Frank Vogel said after the game that “no one can survive that.” Notably, Iman Shumpert was on the bench for the entire third.
"We have so many guys who are capable of hitting shots and a couple great playmakers," Korver said. "That's how we want to play. We want to space the court and we want to put those guys one-on-one in pick-and-roll situations and either let them go to the basket or kick it out to us. When we're on our game and we're doing that well it's fun to play, it's hard to guard, I think it's fun to watch."
Korver’s return was the highlight Thursday and he said after the game that switching the Kyrie 3 did help. But Smith’s recent return to form - he’s 20-33 from deep over the last four games - gives the Cavs what they’ve long envisioned. At any point in the game, the team’s ’Big Three’ will have one elite shooter hanging around the perimeter, just waiting to make opposing defenses pay. And if they so choose, they can can have two on the floor at any time. Simple, yet effective.
"When he's making shots, 3-point shots, it's tough for teams to beat us and we know that," Lue said. "We know that Kevin, Kyrie and LeBron they're going to do their thing every night. You get that fourth scorer, whether it's Korver, J.R., that fourth scorer, it's really tough for us to be beat."