The Cleveland Cavaliers improved to 6-1 with a sixth win in a row following their 101-97 win over the Indiana Pacers. While not every moment and stretch are going smoothly, the kind of basketball they’re playing, especially in the combination between LeBron James and Kevin Love, is some of the best we’re seeing so far in this young NBA season.
James finished with 29 points on 10-of-23 from the field. Kevin Love scored 22 with 19 rebounds. Tristan Thompson, who looks like he didn’t go an entire offseason and preseason without any team basketball, added 16 and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes, getting almost all of those point just under the rim. The Cavaliers are managing to hide the absence of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, for now, and the emerging on-court relationship between James and Love might be the biggest reason for it.
Love seems like a new player. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s the number 2 option on this offense, suiting him a lot more than being the third guy or even fourth when J.R. Smith is playing (also out for now). It might also be just getting accustomed to David Blatt and James himself, playing a second season on a team that he isn’t the main man on anymore. Maybe it also has to do with his personal relationship with James, which was rumored to be rocky last season.
The Cavaliers do have their drops in ability. Richard Jefferson is playing too many minutes and the rotations aren’t exactly ideal, but overall, it seems like the Cavaliers, also through a good enough schedule, have the right kind of top talent to pull them through the rough stretches in games, even if James is far from efficient, shooting just 48.9% from the field so far this season, not too remarkable by his own high standards. Love is shooting just 41.1% from the field averaging 17 points, but he looks a lot more confident and comfortable on the floor than last season.
At some point, the short blanket is going to expose some flaws in this team, once the more difficult opponents come. The Cavaliers don’t need James over exerting himself this early in the season, but there’s no other choice at this point. Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova along with Love and Thompson aren’t going to carry this team to the same record while James has a rest. Home court advantage does matter, at least in the NBA Finals, which is where the Cavaliers are aiming for. Right now, James is forced to do more than he wants to, hoping that along the way the opportunity to take a step back presents itself.