Simply put, the Cavs reminded us that they are a very good basketball team on Saturday night. They also reminded us that they are merely waiting for meaningful basketball later in the season.
The Cavaliers followed their normal script—get Kevin Love going early and let LeBron James go to work scoring and distributing on their way to 67 points on 68% shooting in the first half and 116 total points and 58% shooting for the game.
At halftime, Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton interviewed Cavs big Tristan Thompson. Thompson spoke on the mentality for the Cavaliers, saying “both teams are on a back-to-back, so the first team that comes with the most energy is going to win this ballgame.” When asked about the Cavaliers’ hot offensive start, Thompson again deferred to the defensive end of the floor: “Getting multiple stops, that’s how we create our offense. So if we take care of the defensive end, the offense will be a piece of cake.”
Thompson reiterated something that the Cavaliers have harped on all season—using the defense to create the offense. During the Cavaliers’ three game losing streak, they allowed an average of 114 points per game, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that defense is their current emphasis. Given the tempo the Cavaliers desire, it is reasonable to be giving up an inflated number of points. Still, the Cavaliers struggled to defend Kemba Walker in pick and roll situations.
After cruising through the first half, however, the Cavaliers struggled in the third quarter. The Hornets seized control of the game, not allowing the Cavaliers to create easy opportunities. The Hornets’ third-quarter execution allowed to Hornets to cut the lead to 3 at one point. Fortunately, the Cavaliers were able to pave their way to the line to hold off Charlotte’s rally and took a 92-81 lead into the fourth.
LeBron James lead the Cavaliers through a relatively stress-free fourth quarter on the way to the win. James tallied his 56th forty-point game of his career en route to his season-high 44 points. At one point, the Akron native scored 17 straight points for the Cavaliers. He also scored or assisted on every Cavalier field goal in the 4th quarter. James also tallied 10 assists and 9 rebounds on the night.
It was the 31st time in James’ career that he fell either one assist or one rebound short of a triple-double.
James was simply magnificent on the way to the win. In the words of long-time commentator, Fred McLeod, “We’re running out of adjectives to describe number 23 tonight.”
The Cavaliers return to action on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena when they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Cleveland. It is the first game of home-and-home with the Grizzlies, who host the Cavs in Memphis just twenty-four hours later.