Minnesota Timberwolves (19-30) 97
Cleveland Cavaliers (33-15) 125
Finally. After a month of fledgling against teams that the Cleveland Cavaliers had no business struggling with, the Cavs hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday and just took care of their business.
The Wolves put up a fight in the first half and kept the game close, but in the third quarter the Cavaliers put the clamps on Minnesota defensively and broke the game open. The LeBron plus bench unit sustained the lead in the fourth and Cleveland finally came away with an old-fashioned blowout.
Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, just a run-of-the-mill regular season game at home against a team they should beat, but after the team’s struggles in January, well, this was exactly the kind of game this team needed to get back on track. Coming off a solid home win Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cavs seem to have their mojo back at home. Now they just need to keep it going as they head off for a four-game road trip and have five of their next six away from The Q.
The Cavs followed their win Sunday with a frustrating loss Monday night in Dallas against the Mavericks. This is a trend the team is trying to erase. On the season they are just 11-10 on the road, scoring eight fewer points while giving up almost three more points per game compared to their performances at home.
As for this game against the Timberwolves, Minnesota’s record isn’t where they’d like it to be, but the Wolves have shown some signs of life lately. Winners of five of their last six and eight of their last 11, the Wolves are trying to chase the eight seed in the Western Conference. This is a young team with some really nice players who are starting to come together under Tom Thibodeau. This was their worst loss of the season and the Cavaliers really kept the pressure on in the second half. So while this outcome of a Cavs win may not be surprising, it’s still a solid win that Cleveland can feel good about.
Now for the numbers:
- 30 to 19 – The third quarter was really the game in this one. Cleveland outscored the Wolves 30 to 19 in the quarter. After allowing 60 points in the first half and giving up 56.5 percent shooting from the field, the Cavaliers stepped up their defensive intensity in the third holding Minnesota to just 33.3 percent shooting. Meanwhile, on offense, the Cavaliers had 11 of their season-high 37 assists in the third quarter alone as they took advantage of the stops on defense and got into their sets quickly using some excellent passing to set up good looks.
- 14 – Kyrie Irving had a tough night shooting, making just five of his 18 shots. Kyrie found other ways to contribute, though, setting a new career-high with 14 assists. After averaging 7.8 assists per game in December, Kyrie saw those numbers collapse to 5.2 in January. It was a disappointing drop as it seemed that Kyrie was reaching a new level of playmaking in developing his passing game as 2016 came to a close. January was a tough month for everyone, but February could not have gotten off to a better start for Kyrie’s assist game. Because the game was already in hand, Kyrie didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, meaning he set his new career-high in assists in just three quarters of play. They weren’t all just simple kick passes out to wide open shooters, either. Kyrie showed excellent vision in drawing the defense in and then passing out of it. The Cavaliers need Kyrie to be a primary scorer, of course, but if Kyrie can continue to keep pushing up his assist numbers, the Cavaliers offense is going to be so hard for most teams to slow down.
Thirty-six years old. pic.twitter.com/LJoK5frblQ
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) February 2, 2017
- 27/8/12 – A very workman-like evening for LeBron James. LeBron scored 27 points on just 14 shots, eight assists, 12 rebounds, and just two turnovers. In every way, this was one of LeBron’s more efficient efforts of the season. Workman-like seemed to be LeBron’s attitude after the game as well. With the media trying to be jovial with him in the locker room after the game, LeBron seemed uninterested in playing along. He wasn’t exactly testy, but he wasn’t in the joking mood, either. With the road trip coming up, LeBron seemed to be sending a message that now isn’t the time for the team to start feeling good about themselves. The idea being that this was just taking care of business and that now they need to carry over this effort on the road.
- 18 and 14 – Tristan Thompson was simply great in this game, scoring 18 points and hauling in 14 rebounds. Tristan and Kyrie operated the pick and roll to perfection and with Karl-Anthony Towns often sticking on Channing Frye out on Frye Island, it opened up the paint for Tristan who did a great job getting himself in a position to score. Tristan had eight offensive rebounds with four of them coming in that critical third quarter and Tristan was a team-high +18 on the game. It’s cliché to talk about Tristan’s energy and effort, but in this game, he was so much more than just an effort guy. He was huge in every facet of the game.
- 5 – Five Cavaliers scored double-digits in this game. LeBron James (27), Kyle Korver (20), Tristan Thompson (18), Channing Frye (18), and Kyrie Irving (14) all set the tone for a big offensive night for Cleveland. Frye got the starting nod at the last minute and he had a strong game not only spacing the floor with his shooting but he also showed some ability to score in the paint. Kyle Korver was able to get his shot to fall as he was able to consistently find the open space on the perimeter, knocking down 4-of-7 from three-point range. Iman Shumpert and Kay Fedler each just missed joining the club with nine points apiece. In total, everyone on the Cavaliers scored except DeAndre Liggins.
The Cavaliers did what they needed to do in this one and now they head to the Garden on Saturday where they will face (future teammate?) Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
Jalen Rose and Chauncey Billups think the Cavs need Melo. pic.twitter.com/EmA3ElHC5E
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) February 2, 2017
After the Knicks game, this road trip has the Cavaliers going to Washington, Indiana, and Oklahoma City. They then return home for a game against the Denver Nuggets and then they go back on the road for a rematch with the Timberwolves. The last road trip was pretty much a disaster for Cleveland. With things just now starting to feel like they’re turning around, it will be imperative that the Cavaliers don’t allow themselves to slip back into another funk.
After the road trip the Cavaliers will have one last game at home against the Pacers and then it will be All-Star break time. After that, March will be approaching and that means the stretch run is on the horizon and will be here before we know it. The NBA season is said to be a marathon, full of ebbs and flows and this season has been no exception. Even in their loss to the Mavericks on Monday, the Cavaliers seem to be showing signs of pulling out of this rough stretch. This road trip will be a pretty good litmus test for the team to see if they’re ready to get back to the way they were playing earlier in the season. This Timberwolves game certainly seemed like a step in that direction.