Cleveland Cavaliers (38-16) 116
Minnesota Timberwolves (21-35) 108
Tuesday night’s game in Minnesota was supposed to be another homecoming for Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. The big man was to play back in the place where he spent his first six years in the NBA before being traded to the wine and gold for Andrew Wiggins. But, Tuesday morning, the team announced that Love had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove loose body, a procedure that would keep him out of action for approximately six weeks.
Without Love, the Cavs were still able to take care of business against their Western Conference foe. Replacing him will be a team effort; not a single player, no matter who it is, can replace an All-Star that averages a double-double. While the first game without Love went well, the next six weeks could be interesting. Head coach Tyronn Lue will want to continue to win, but he also has to find ways to rest guys like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
For two players, Cavs’ Derrick Williams and Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, the game featured them going against the teams who drafted them. In the first night of a back-to-back, the Cavs were able to get a win without a third of their Big Three in a high scoring, fast-paced game.
21 and 10 – Replacing a player like Love won’t be easy for the Cavs, but if Channing Frye, who started in place of Love, plays like he did Tuesday night for much of the time that Love is away, it will be a much easier time. Frye tied his season-high with 21 points (14 in first half) and 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. While shooting 7-of-15 from the floor and 4-of-11 from deep, the big man also pitched in one assist and two blocks and finished with a plus-17, the best on the team. Although it will be a team effort to replace an All-Star like Love, if Frye plays like this, it would help the Cavs tremendously.
25, 14, and 8 – LeBron is going to do what he’s going to do, no matter who is or isn’t playing. Following shootaround Tuesday morning, he mentioned that he will rest when he will retire and as long as he’s suiting up, the team has a chance. He proved that against the Timberwolves. James had 25 points, eight rebounds, and 14 assists while shooting a very efficient 10-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Although he played 40 minutes, the best player in the world proved that the Cavs can survive don’t need to be full strength to score 116 points. One of his 14 assists was a very impressive no-look pass to Derrick Williams.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 15, 2017
13 and 6 – When Cleveland signed Derrick Williams to a 10-day contract last Thursday, no one probably expected him to make as much of an impact as he has so far. In Minnesota, he finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while also adding a steal, in 23 minutes of action. Considered a power forward, Williams is athletic enough to take some of the burden off James as well, as he showed Tuesday night. The big made 5-of-7 field goals and finished with a plus-15, which was second on the team. As the Cavs’ Twitter explained, on Valentine’s Day, Williams wasn’t Mr. Steal Your Girl, he was Mr. Steal Your Ball.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 15, 2017
10-of-27 and 2-of-10 – Kyrie Irving may have had 25 points and seven assists, but he was quite cold for the majority of the game in Minnesota. While leading the team in shots, 12 more than Frye’s 15, the All-Star was just 10-of-27 from the floor and 2-of-10 from deep in 37 minutes. It’s actually quite impressive that, with a cold Irving and without Love, the Cavs were still able to put up 116 points. It proves that the wine and gold have plenty of scorers all around the court, both in the starting lineup and off the bench.
14 and 11 – Tristan Thompson will rarely ever be counted on to score a bunch for the Cavs, but he continually, night in and night out, quietly puts up very impressive games for the wine and gold. Tuesday night, he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while shooting a very efficient 6-of-7 from the floor. The big man also grabbed six of the Cavs’ nine offensive rebounds. While grabbing 11 rebounds of his own, Thompson held Karl Anthony-Towns, who is one of the best big men in the league, to just eight rebounds.
43 – After trailing 30-26 after the first quarter, Cleveland scored 43 points (!) in the second quarter to give themselves 69 points and an 8-point lead at halftime. Once again, without Love, that is quite impressive.
41 – When it comes to playing against the Cavs, former No. 1 pick of the wine and gold Andrew Wiggins makes sure he plays his best. Before Tuesday night, the forward averaged 27.6 points per game in five games against Cleveland. Whether it’s him trying to show that they shouldn’t have traded him or just his anger towards the team that he wished he was still on, Wiggins plays his best against the wine and gold. He finished with 41 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one steal Tuesday night, while making 16-of-29 field goals and 4-of-8 from long distance. 37 of his 41 points came in the first three quarters. Also, it was Wiggins’ fourth 40-point game of his career, all of which have come this season.