Cleveland Cavaliers (52-21) 107
New York Knicks (30-44) 93
It’s easy to miss the forest for the Vines these days, but sometimes one short video tells a larger tale. That was the case Saturday night, when LeBron James dunking all over the New York Knicks’ Lou Amundson captured the essence of Cavs 107, Knicks 93. The Cavs controlled the game largely because LeBron controlled the game, and his powerful two-hand slam over his short-time teammate summed it all up.
Poor Lou found himself defending James on the left wing after a switch. LeBron settles for jumpers from that spot sometimes, but Mr. Amundson wouldn’t be that lucky. Lou, it should be said, deserves some blame for playing LeBron so tight. Whatever the case, James drove past Amundson, kept him at bay with a little off-arm action, and hammered down an NSFW-level dunk right in Lou’s face. Kristaps Porzingis offered an arm’s worth of help, but his lengthy limb couldn’t do a thing about it.
LeBron rightly picked up a technical foul for taunting afterward. To paraphrase Icelandic antagonist Gunnar Stahl, it was well worth it.
The Cavs took control of this one early. They ran out to a 32-17 lead after the end of the first quarter thanks to a combination of fine shooting and opportunistic defense. By halftime they extended the 15-point advantage to 24-, holding the Knicks to just 32 first-half points. The Cavs jumped passing lanes, contested shots, scrambled when necessary, rebounded the hell out of the ball, and just plain played well. They benefited from some poor Knicks shooting — Carmelo Anthony even missed a bunny or two — but they certainly made things tough for the home team.
Particularly encouraging was the Cavs’ play in the second quarter. A bench-heavy lineup featuring Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson, and Richard Jefferson held the fort and actually built on the lead instead of giving it up. LeBron was able to sit for the first half of the quarter instead of harrumphing his way to the scorer’s table after a couple minutes when things got dicey. By the end of the half LeBron was well on his way to a triple-double and Kevin Love was one rebound shy of a double-double.
Speaking of LeBron: He was absolutely brilliant. It was one of those games where no one (aside from Carmelo) could come close to challenging him physically, and as a result everything looked easy for him. He set a personal single-quarter best with six assists in the first quarter, looking very much like he wanted everyone else to get on the scoreboard. Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, and Mo Williams — the latter playing his first game in a month — all hit early triples off of James assists. This being LeBron, of course, one could also read it as a giant subtweet toward Kyrie Irving, who got the night off.
The Knicks made things a little more interesting in the second half, starting with a Carmelo-led 40-point third quarter. Anthony led New York back to semi-contention by hitting a boatload of threes (he was 4-of-4 from deep in the third) as the Knicks shot 70 percent from the field and scored 38 points. The home team hung around for a while in the fourth quarter as well. The Cavs weathered the storm and finished the job, with LeBron and Love (33 second-half points combined) leading the way.
Let’s look at the numbers.
3, 42 — LeBron James had 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season and the 42nd of his regular-season career. I covered most of his game above. He was great. It’s easy to crack wise when he makes a show of getting into playoff mode, but he really looked like it Saturday. This was his second triple-double in three games. He’s dunking on dudes. His jumper is showing occasional signs of life. Let us not forget what this guy can do.
And while Kyrie Irving didn’t play, he did — allegedly — predict LeBron’s trip-dub in the Garden.
28 & 12 — Kevin Love had a nice shooting game en route to a vintage 28-point, 12-rebound performance. He has struggled on threes for most of the season (though November and January were pretty good), but on this night he let it fly with little hesitation. He shot 4-of-9 from deep and 10-of-19 overall. He did nice work in the post as well, scoring with his pet right hook, a fadeaway jumper, and some tricky up-and-under/step-through moves. Love won’t get that many shots every night, but the Cavs have done well when he shoots a bunch.
Pun aside, this is a solid graphic. pic.twitter.com/dgJm1KYJpe
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) March 27, 2016
50/29, 39/55 — In the first half, the Cavs shot 50 percent and the Knicks shot just 29 percent. New York went into halftime with just 32 points. In the second half, the Cavs shot 39 percent and the Knicks shot 55 percent, including that sizzling third quarter.
(>_<) — That’s the face, I’m guessing, that LeBron makes when Timofey Mozgov misses layups. Timo actually played a decent game — five points, six rebounds, one block in 24 minutes — but the most enduring play will be when he 1) tried to lay the ball off the glass and 2) missed said layup when he was 3) wiiiiide open. LeBron found him with a bullet of a bounce pass off of a loose ball, and poor Timo just boned the whole thing.
LeBron did, however, try to pick the Mozzy Bear up.
13 — Mo Williams played 13 minutes in his first action since February 24. He has been sidelined with knee problems and was reportedly on a 10- to 12-minute limit in New York. He played pretty well in his return, hitting a couple threes and totaling eight points, two rebounds, and two assists (and zero turnovers). He isn’t likely to see much time once the playoffs come around, barring injury, but it’s always nice to see the goosey fly.
1 — One weird Richard Jefferson anecdote, which came via Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton. RJ apparently doesn’t throw alley-oop passes. He just doesn’t do it. It’s not his thing. It struck me as a particularly odd quirk for a professional basketball player. My theory is that an errant Jefferson oop once caused a fatal car wreck or something.
And on that note, have a happy Easter, everyone. Go Cavs.