Toronto Raptors – 117 (7-3)
Cleveland Cavaliers – 121 (9-1)
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ motto for the 2016-17 regular season, bestowed upon them by a Kevin Love infused with rebelliousness and invulnerability by his fresh championship, was supposed, “I don’t give a shit.” That attitude will certainly be on display through stretches of the season, during inane media pestering and road games in February that are wholly meaningless even in the context of a meaningless basketball season in a meaningless existence. It should be. Worry is beneath the Cavaliers. Worry is for teams that are less vetted, less decorated, less profesional; teams that have not been to the Promised Land, caressed its shiny surface and bathed and in its Champagne.
But the Cavs did not look like they didn’t give a shit on Tuesday night, hosting the Toronto Raptors. They gave several, maybe as many as a dozen shits (though the author confesses he can’t assess whether 12 is a lot of shits … how many Newtons or even Fig Newtons is that?) Anyway, the point being that the Cavaliers wrestled victory from the younger and supposedly hungrier Raptors that they defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, improving to 2-0 over the clear second best team in the conference.
41 – Channing Frye continued his hot streak, scoring 21 points on Tuesday after a 20-pointer against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. It’s the first time Frye has had consecutive 20-point games since 2013, and only the third time he’s scored 20 as a Cavalier. Frye again made more than half of his threes, shooting 5-of-8 from deep, bringing his season percentage to 51.0, the highest in the NBA among players with more than 50 attempts.
What’s more, Frye led all Cavaliers with 13 points in the fourth quarter, playing the entire frame with the exception of some defensive set switches with Tristan Thompson. Frye has even been stingy on defense, adding a critical block late in the game by deflecting a Kyle Lowry floater by the tips of his fingers. Most importantly, it appears that Frye is rapidly gaining trust from LeBron James, the man with the means to put balls in his hands and meals on his table. On Sunday I compared Frye’s shooting stroke to Sara Bareilles’ voice, and I might as well keep it going for good luck. Sara, where does Channing Frye rank among bench stretch-fives in the NBA right now?
28/9/14 – After a poor shooting performance on Sunday (8-of-21, 38.1 percent), LeBron James returned with a ruthlessly efficient 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, nine rebounds, and 14 assists. Was there any doubt that James would perform, with DeMar DeRozan receiving MVP hype in his scoring title chase, and Oscar Robertson in the building? The Big O is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the course of the season, and James continues to hint at a chase of the mark: triple-double watch is now at 23.4/8.9/9.6. Check out the devastating crossover on an unsuspecting Lucas Nogueira below.
James now has 211 25/7/7 games, 76 more than Larry Bird, who has the second most since 1983 (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com goes). I’m officially dubbing the 25/7/7 game an “Oscar,”1 as Oscar Robertson is the only player to ever average 25/7/7 for his entire career (James has 6.9 assists per game right now). Below is a table of the 10 players with the most Oscars as far back as Basketball-Reference.com’s records go.2 James has a lot … Russell Westbrook surely has many more to come.
17 for 26 – The Cavaliers had 17 turnovers leading to 26 Toronto points, a fact that really should have cost them the game. That the Cavaliers were able to win despite the sloppy performance is a testament to their effort. The Cavaliers compensated with their feckless play with gumption, scoring 20 second-chance points on only 10 offensive rebounds.
10 on 4-of-5 – After misfiring for three quarters with 14 points on 6-of-15 (40.0 percent) shooting, Kyrie Irving scored 10 points on 4-of-5 (80.0 percent) shooting in the fourth quarter, slamming the door on the feisty Raptors. Irving hit a deep three from beyond the “Kyrie spot,” blew past the defense for a layup, and hit a dagger corner three all in the span of a few minutes.
19 & 13 – Another double-double for Kevin Love (his seventh in 10 games), with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and another nine free throw attempts. Love didn’t shoot great (5-of-16), but had an assist on a beautiful “throw me open” pass to LeBron james on an excellent play drawn up by coach Tyronn Lue to seal the game. James received the inbounds pass from Richard Jefferson, who cleared things out for Kevin Love. James gave it to Love, who then found James streaking toward the hoop thanks to a screen from Kyrie Irving, taking home a layup with a trailing Kyle Lowry and slow-footed DeMar DeRozan. It was … superb.
26 – Only 26 points for DeMar DeRozan, who entered the game averaging a Kobe-esque 34.0 points. Credit the Cavaliers defense, who swarmed him all night, only allowing Double D to make 10 of his 27 field goals, for an ouchy 37.0 percent.