Cleveland Cavaliers – 113
Indiana Pacers – 104
The three point line was just a suggestion for the Cavs on Wednesday night, with Kyrie Irving and Kyle Korver launching from Medina on their way to a 113-104 victory over the Indiana Pacers. After falling behind by eight in the first quarter, the Cavs responded by hitting their stride on offense, and by hitting 18 three pointers.
Korver out here shooting four-pointers pic.twitter.com/suX1L9NoTV
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) February 16, 2017
LeBron James continued his bid to be included in the MVP conversation, scoring 31 points on 17 shots, and hitting four out of his five three point attempts. James is having his best season since leaving Miami, with the third best true shooting percentage of anyone with a usage of 29 percent or higher this season. That figure is higher than even James Harden. Kyrie Irving added 26 points and seven assists. Irving’s passing has been a welcome addition his game, posting a 29.6 percent assist rate this season. For someone who is not the main ball handler, Irving has been spectacular at knowing when to score, when to set up his teammates, and when to let James do his thing.
Even with J.R. Smith and Kevin Love out with injuries, the Cavaliers didn’t have to rely solely on James and Irving. Korver scored 22 points and Derrick Williams played his highest minute total with the Cavaliers at 26. Channing Frye, starting for Love, struggled with his shot but was able to pull down eight rebounds in the starting role, after pulling down ten the night before. If the Cavaliers depth can handle the larger load put on them with Love and Smith sidelined, it will be a huge relief for the team.
The Cavaliers enter the All-Star break with a two and a half game lead over Boston for the top spot in the East. The additions of Korver and Williams have helped add depth and ease the burden on the Cavaliers’ Big 3 of James, Irving, and Love, but they could still be looking for reinforcements at the February 23rd trade deadline. A backup point guard has been a focus for a few weeks now, and the Cavaliers could also use another big man to play behind starting center Tristan Thompson. It’s more likely the Cavs will be players in the buyout market than active at the deadline, but general manager David Griffin has been aggressive in past years and could just as easily swing a deal to provide the Cavaliers with even more fire power heading into the playoffs.
Now, let’s look behind the numbers at the Cavaliers heading into the break:
32 – Minutes for LeBron James in this game. It has become almost an obsession for this who cover the NBA and Cavaliers, so it was nice to see the Cavs keep his minutes down. I would expect that post-break we’ll see LeBron sitting out more games and playing fewer minutes in the games he does play.
20 – Minutes per game for Richard Jefferson prior to the Cavaliers singing Derrick Williams. Since then, he’s down to 13 minutes per game. In that same span, Williams is playing over 20 minutes per game for the Cavaliers. It’s interesting to look at whether this is a way to get Jefferson some extra rest, or if Williams is really taking over Jefferson’s role.
22.8 – The Cavs’ net rating when LeBron James and Derrick Williams share the court before tonight. This is in a hilariously small sample size (31 minutes), but shows how well the team has played with these two together. This is especially important after how the bench unit has struggled for most of the season.
12 – Number of road games for the Cavaliers in March compared to just five home games. The All-Star break will be a nice chance for the team to catch their breath, but down Smith and Love and a mostly road schedule in March is going to be tough on this team. It may be beneficial to rest Kyrie and LeBron and have some scheduled losses along the way.
2,000 – three pointers made for Kyle Korver in his career. He is only the seventh player to reach this milestone.
The Cavs don’t play again until February 23rd against the Knicks.