Cleveland Cavaliers (27-8) 116
Brooklyn Nets (8-27) 108
The Cleveland Cavaliers got good news Friday afternoon ahead of their road trip kickoff against the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie Irving (hamstring) and Kevin Love (the worst case of food poisoning ever) were both cleared to return to action. It was great news for the Cavaliers, but for a struggling Nets team, it was less so.
The Nets have a reputation as a team that can play teams tough but doesn’t generally pull out the win. That more or less is exactly what happened in this game. The Cavaliers showed their rust early and you saw Kyrie and Love miss some shots they normally make. The Nets hung around until the Cavaliers pulled away right before halftime.
In the third quarter, the Cavaliers seemed to pull away and the game looked like it was becoming a formality. To the Nets’ credit, though, they fought back to get back to within single digits. In the fourth quarter, Kyrie Irving exploded to once again appear to have the game under control. But once more, the Nets put together another run to get within seven with just over a minute to play. But LeBron James was able to knock down some free throws in the final minute and the Cavaliers defense held to get the win.
For the Cavaliers, this was mostly a game about getting everyone reacquainted with playing. With this game being the first of a six-game road trip, it was crucial getting everyone back playing and getting themselves back into playing shape. It was clear that there was still some rust and the offense wasn’t exactly clicking for the whole game, but it was just nice having Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love back on the floor.
Now, the numbers:
- 36 – Nowhere else to start with this one than with LeBron James. With Kyrie and Love getting off to slow starts, the team needed LeBron to step up, and he was more than happy to oblige. LeBron scored 11 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 36 points. LeBron hit on 14 of his 20 shots from the field, showing off his red hot jump shot and mixing in some nice plays attacking the rim. LeBron added 9 rebounds and 6 assists. LeBron is pretty much always the constant on this team, and while the game was a bit of a roller coaster, he was the steadying force in this game for Cleveland.
- 16 – Kyrie Irving got off to a slow start, scoring just three points in the first quarter and missing a lot of shots that everyone is used to seeing go down. Having missed the last three games, the timing was just off a bit for Kyrie. In the fourth quarter, though, Kyrie got his game back. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to help the Cavaliers build the lead back to double digits. Kyrie did have a bit of a scare in this game when his leg was stepped on after falling to the floor on a drive, but he was able to shake it off and it didn’t seem to have any lingering effects.
- 17 and 13 – Kevin Love reportedly lost ten pounds from his bout with some nasty airplane seabass. It would have been understandable if Love would have had a lackluster game. While there were moments where Love appeared a little rusty, he still had a solid return recording another double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Love knocked down 4 of 9 three-point attempts, but the rebounding was the most impressive aspect of this game. Losing that much weight and receiving several IV treatments, nobody would have blinked an eye if he would have looked weak out on the floor. But Love was out there fighting for every rebound and moving on offense to get to his spots. It was encouraging sign for the Cavaliers.
- 40 – The Cavaliers had an 86-68 lead heading into the fourth quarter. In the blink of an eye, the Nets had closed to within 86-80 and suddenly the game was back in doubt. That was when Kyrie took over to extend the lead. But the Nets kept attacking and kept coming back. The Nets scored 40 points in the fourth quarter to make this game much closer than it should have been. Columbus native Caris LeVert scored 10 in the fourth and Brook Lopez had 11 to help the Nets fight back into this one. It was a nice showing by the Nets and a frustrating defensive effort for the Cavaliers. In a rather shocking stat, Kyrie Irving scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and was still -8 for the quarter. While the Cavaliers will be happy to get the win, you know there will be some discussion about what happened with the defense in that final quarter.
- 4 – Tristan Thompson started out 0-9 from the free throw line in this game. The Cavaliers thrive on TT’s energy and hustle and they love seeing him get to the line, but with his struggles from the line in this one, the Nets decided to try intentionally fouling TT in the third quarter in an attempt to get back into it. To his credit, Thompson then proceeded to knock down four straight free throws to quickly put an end to the Nets’ strategy. So while the 4-13 mark in the box score may look ugly, TT actually deserves a lot of credit for hitting them when the team needed them to stop the Nets from abusing the rule to make up ground.
- 2 – Checking in on reminders of another Cavs era, former Cavaliers Joe Harris and Anthony Bennett combined for two points. Bennett registered a DNP-CD while Harris really struggled with his shot, going 1 for 9 from the field and missing all five of his three-point attempts. Bennett has played in 23 games this season, averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 11 minutes per game while Harris is averaging 9.1 points per game, playing 23.5 minutes per game.
It’s always nice kicking off a trip with a win, and while this one was far from pretty, the only thing that matters is that Kyrie and Love are back and they look like they’ll be back to normal in no time. Cleveland now waits for the arrival of Kyle Korver. It’s going to be exciting to see what Korver can do getting the widest open looks he’s ever going to see. Hopefully, he’ll be in the lineup on Sunday when the Cavaliers travel to Phoenix to face a Suns team that has been showing some signs of life the past couple weeks.