The way the Cleveland Cavaliers have been coasting to the franchise’s best start in almost 30 years is incredible considering how the same team struggled so badly in the early goings last year. LeBron James is getting plenty of help from Kevin Love and Mo Williams, making the whole Kyrie Irving & Iman Shumpert injury seem miniscule at this point.
The Cavaliers improved to 7-1, including 5-0 at home. Their only loss was by two points to the Chicago Bulls, not something to lose sleep over. The Jazz did put up a fight, but the Cavs made just enough plays in the final quarter to make it seven wins in a row, winning 118-114. It was basically a three-man effort with some help around the edges, which is pretty much the premise for every big three in the history of this league, something James knows a thing or two about.
He finished with 31 points, including a massive dunk on the head of Rudy Gobert in probably his best game of the season so far, finishing with 11-of-19 from the field to go with 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Williams played like it’s 2009 to finish with 29 points while Love kept his solid second season in Cleveland going with 22, despite another slightly off shooting night, hitting just 6-of-16 from the field, including four three pointers.
The fourth quarter was about James muscling the Cavs back into victory. They were trailing 95-86 midway through the final quarter before James stepped up on both ends of the floor, with the swing move being a steal at midcourt and a great finish at the rim despite Rodney Hood fouling him hard in the process. James had a couple of difficult and-1’s in this game, as if to show that the talk of his declining physicality doesn’t belong in this day and time. That move sparked a 10-0 run which helped the Cavaliers take a 104-98 lead which the Jazz couldn’t erase.
Nothing is perfect, obviously. Besides the missing personnel, including the very important J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov has been struggling in his second season with the team, scoring just 8 points per game instead of stepping up a little bit in term of offensive involvement. But there’s the counter to him in Tristan Thompson, who is usually on the floor for the good minutes from the Cavaliers, making it seem like the big contract he got is enough to help overcome all the time he missed in offseason and preseason. When all you do is rebound and putback dunks, maybe training camp isn’t necessary.
The Cavaliers haven’t run into the best of the best so far (we’re still figuring out who they are for the most part), but it’s clear that this team is hellbent on one thing, and doesn’t look like anyone in the East is going to pose a serious problem. The Cavaliers have something of a revenge mission to partake in, with James looking for his third championship ring, a first in Cleveland. It’s better they have injuries to deal with now than in six months.