Many predicted the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder were on a collision course to possibly meet in the NBA Finals before the start of the season. However, due to injuries or lack of chemistry, both teams haven’t lived up to some of the early yet enormous expectations. Luckily for the Cavs and the Thunder, the NBA season is a long 82 games, not 41.
The Thunder finally have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healthy. The Cavs, who were on a five-game winning streak coming into today’s game, are starting to play the type of team basketball that will propel them to championship level status once again. Factoring in the return of Dion Waiters to Cleveland since being traded to the Thunder earlier this month along with all of the pieces finally falling into place for both of these teams, today’s star-studded game was must see TV.
Here are the highlights from tonight’s game:
The Cavs 108-98 win over the Thunder provided a blueprint on why the Cavs can be so lethal on offense. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined for 74 of the Cavs’ 108 points. James, who score 34 points on 11-25, showed why his mere presence is the most deadliest weapon in the NBA. James’ ability to find the wide-open shooter off of the pick-and-roll is far and away the best in the NBA.
Irving provided his usual contribution, scoring 21 points on 9-21 shooting and six assists, but the main cog that makes the Cavs operate offensively like clockwork is Love.
Love only took ten shots, but was able to score 19 points. Love was also 5-7 on three-pointers and hauled in 13 rebounds.
In order for this team to reach their elusive goal of capturing the franchise’s first NBA title, they must utilize Love better. Whether it’s a lack of trust or coaching, the Cavs have done a poor job of using him in the pick-and-roll at times this season.
Throughout most of today’s game, Love was standing at the three-point line waiting for his teammates to kick it out to him. He didn’t get very many touches in the post or at the pinch-post position. The Cavs must find a balance between pick-and-roll, post and pinch-post action with Love to go from a very good offense to outright deadly. At the same time, Love’s drifting on the perimeter was also able to drag out the shot-blocking Serge Ibaka to open easier driving lanes for James and Irving.
J.R. Smith had 14 points with four three-pointers to continue his excellent job as a floor-spacer. With Timofey Mozgov in foul trouble, Tristan Thompson saw more run tonight, and his activity was a major contribution the Cavalier’s victory. He finished with 10 points, but had five of his 16 rebounds on the offensive end.
Dion Waiters, in his return to Cleveland since being traded in a three-team deal that brought Shumpert and Smith, scored 14 points on his usual, inefficient 5-15 shooting. The fan reactions to Waiters was a big surprising:
Wow. Dion Waiters booed when he checks in. Surprised by that.
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) January 25, 2015
Rexwell Villas ·
Dion Waiters keeps getting booed by the Cavs fans. I don't really get it. Trading him revamped Cleveland's season.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 25, 2015
With all that being said, the Cavaliers are heading into the right direction, and all of the scrutiny and inner turmoil that faced this team three weeks ago seems to be in the rear-view mirror.
“Without question, we’re playing as a unit,” said head coach David Blatt following today’s win.
A unit that once appeared lost, finally found itself again. Their next chance to build upon this win will be on the road against the Detroit Pistons in the Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit just lost their starting point guard Brandon Jennings to a torn ACL.