Cleveland Cavaliers 128
Boston Celtics 122
The Cleveland Cavaliers are just too much fun, if that is even possible. They can shoot and pass and rebound and defend and dunk the hell out of the ball:
Cleveland’s main contributors put on a show against the Boston Celtics. When LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are all playing at a high level, there aren’t many teams that can compete. Tonight, it was Boston’s turn, and without Al Horford and Jae Crowder, they didn’t stand a chance, losing 128-122 to the high-flying Cavaliers.
LeBron James was incredible, imposing his will by scoring 20 points in the third quarter and finishing with a season-high 30 points on 12-of-22 from the floor. He added seven rebounds, 12 assists, and this alley-oop:
Kyrie Irving put up 23/4/6 and controlled the first half of the game with his scoring. Kevin Love added 26 points and eight rebounds and was a focus of the offense down the stretch as the Celtics closed the gap in the fourth quarter. Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye added to the scoring outburst with 15 and 11 points, respectively. And the true “Behind the Box Score” star Tristan Thompson had a stretch that included the dunk (above), a block, and some key rebounds to help control the game in his own way.
The Celtics were short-manned and coming off a back-to-back, but they made it a game near the end. Coach Brad Stevens has a deep bench that is able to send competent NBA players out in nearly every lineup that helps close gaps and keep games within reach. Rookie Jaylen Brown had the best game of his young career with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and added five rebounds, two assists, three steals, and a block. In the end, it wasn’t enough, as the Cavaliers just had too much talent and offense for the Celtics to overcome.
- 50% – Kyrie Irving is shooting 50 percent on 7.2 three-point attempts per game. I wrote prior to the season that one way for Kyrie to raise the level of his game would be to attempt more threes and he’s done that. He’s actually shooting them at a blistering rate. While he obviously won’t maintain this level of efficiency, if he can continue to lean more on long-distance shots and hit them with some frequency, we’re in for a special season.
- 28.9% – Kevin Love’s usage (percentage of possessions a player uses while on the floor) has increased significantly this year. In his first year in Cleveland, Love used 21.7 percent possessions. That number increased last year, but only to 23.4 percent. This season, Love has been asked to handle a larger role in the offense as the Cavs are without a legitimate backup point guard. He often subs out prior to the rest of the starters and returns to lead the second unit. While Love’s shooting hasn’t been great to start the year, he’s still been extremely efficient due to…
- 8.2 – The number of free throws Kevin Love is attempting per game. This is up from 4.1 in 2015 and 4.3 in 2014. Love is taking far fewer threes as a percentage of his overall shots, but with his increase in usage, the total number of threes attempted per game is consistent with his last two seasons. What has increased, is his ability to get to the line. This has helped the big-man put up impressive scoring numbers even while not shooting well from the field to start the season.
- All of the shooting – The amount of shooting the Cavaliers have on their roster. Not counting Mo Williams, the Cavs have eight players that have career three-point percentage over 36 percent. General manager David Griffin has done a remarkable job of acquiring one of the league’s most desired assets: elite shooting. He acquired J.R. Smith, Mike Dunleavy, Richard Jefferson, and Channing Frye for basically nothing, all of which have provided the Cavs with an extreme amount of shooting depth. They have players at every position that can shoot, giving them an incredible amount of options to match up to other teams.
- 26.2% – LeBron’s 26.2 percent usage is by far the lowest of his career. He hasn’t had a usage percentage below 30 percent since the 2004-05 season. Oh, and he is nearly averaging a triple-double at 22.4 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists per game. He’s letting Kyrie and K-Love handle a larger scoring load while he fills up the stat sheet in other ways. It’s something that has been discussed, but no one was ever sure if LeBron would actually follow through. We’ll see as the season goes on if he maintains this lower level of involvement in the offense, but right now Kyrie and Love are able to fill the scoring void while No. 23 focuses on other assets of the game.
The Cavaliers visit the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night for their first look at The Process: Joel Embiid. The schedule toughens up in the coming weeks, but the wine and gold have a great chance to secure a 6-0 start in Philly.