Powered by an enormous effort off of the Cavalier bench by Channing Frye for the second consecutive game, Cleveland was able to handle Toronto’s spurty effort to improve to 9-1. Frye came in off of Ty Lue’s bench to put in 21 points on 7/10 from the field, including 5/8 from three and several big shots. LeBron James finished one rebound away from a triple double (28 points, 9 rebounds, and 14 assists) because of course he did.
Here are some thoughts from tonight’s game at The Q.
- The Cavaliers continue to start quarters slowly and need (and make) runs at the ends of those quarters in order to preserve victory. In the last six minutes of the first, the Cavs closed on a 23-8 run to have the lead at the end of the period. In the second, they found themselves trailing 54-56 with two minutes left, and entered the locker room with a 61-57 advantage. The third quarter followed suit with the Cavs turning it over basically constantly and finding themselves down 74-73, eventually making yet another run and heading into the fourth up by four at 91-87. Channing Frye was a monster late, and after a 9-2 Toronto run to put the Cavs down seven, Kyrie hit a three, and LeBron put in two free throws to bring it to 108-110 with 3:41 left. LeBron and crew punched back and closed out the win.
- This is a little bit troubling. The defensive effort is not there consistently. Transition defense continues to be a major issue, with several lapses in concentration. Toronto bailed them out a few times with bad shots and poor decision making in transition, otherwise, they may have run away with the game. This must be addressed, and has to get better as we go on. The good news? This is November. Things will probably be fine.
- Speaking of transition, outside of Kyrie it is hard to think of a better point guard in terms of transition scoring. He isn’t tall, but he might be the strongest PG in the league pound-for-pound. He gets wherever he wants, turns the floor over quickly, and finishes really well.
- Richard Jefferson connected on his 5,000th FG make during the game this evening. It is a testament to how long he’s been around. A good chunk of younger Cavs fans probably don’t remember his springy, dunking, and dynamic days as a scorer for the New Jersey Nets. Like Vince Carter in Memphis, he has embraced a new role, as well as his physical limitations, and advancing age to still be a quality contributor for a good team playing at a high level. Really cool.
- Mike Dunleavy was much better in the first half tonight. He looked like he was moving better, and it appeared that Lue’s plan was to have him be more dynamic as opposed to simply being a spot up shooter in the corner passively waiting for things to happen instead of asserting himself within the context of the offensive system. Nice to see, and hopefully a sign of more things to come.
- Cleveland did a nice job, mostly, of making DeRozan work for shots he likes, and forcing him to settle for shots he doesn’t love (threes). They at least held him to under 30 points. Previously, this was nearly impossible. Shumpert looked good against him, and it seemed like DeRozan was forcing shots after contact more than normal. All in all, DeRozan finished with 26, but needed 27 shots to get there, making only 10 of them.
- Part of that was that the defensive scheme against him was incredible. Rather than hard shows and aggressive trapping, Lue chose to have Tristan sort of mirror him from the other side of screens, cutting off his eventual path without Tristan having to leave his man. I mentioned in Wine And Gold Weekly this week that the Raptor wing is great at getting to his spots. Apparently, getting to those spots is a lot harder when a giant human is already standing in them. A really intriguing scheme. Goes to show you exactly how good Lue is. Clever stuff.
- Toronto is really…really good. Clearly the second best team in the East to this point, and I would be shocked if this wasn’t the Conference Finals series for the second straight year. DeMar didn’t have to go nuts for them to compete, and they nearly walked into the building belonging to the best team in basketball and stole a road win.
Next up is Indiana in Indianapolis.