The Cleveland Cavaliers finally have their second win of the season, beating the Denver Nuggets 110-101. No one had to take too much on himself as LeBron James looked pleased for the first time, as the ball moved around with no one, including Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, trying to do too much on their own.
The ball moved around, Kyrie Irving played like an actual point guard and James, well, he looked like the kind of player who can take the game on himself, but prefers to involve everyone. He scored 22 points and the big three accounted for 48% of the team’s points. When there are seven players in double figures and it’s not up to just one player to get the job done, the Cavaliers suddenly look like the team that was promised when it was assembled.
Moving the ball meant easy point. James finished with 11 assists, the Cavs shot a respectable 47.6% from the field and scored 56 points in the paint. When they were closing out the game by scoring three consecutive field goals, they all came very close to the rim. Both Anderson Varejao (15 points) and Tristan Thompson (12 points) didn’t need to try and do things they don’t know how to, getting plenty of clear cut opportunities in their comfort zone.
The Cavaliers also scored a season high 39 points in transition, which was helped by the poor performance from the Denver defense, who are off to a bad start for a second straight season under Brian Shaw. Obviously, we’re just one week into November, but firing George Karl doesn’t seem any smarter in hindsight with over a year to reflect on the decision. The Cavaliers scored 28 of their transition points in the first half on 90.9% shooting. They were averaging just 13 transition plays (!!!) prior to the win in Denver.
The defense has been doing well, despite giving up 101.4 points per game. They are third in the NBA in points per play (.807). There’s no real reason to panic, despite losing by 19 points in Portland and that buzzer beating shot from Gordon Hayward to beat them in Utah. Obviously, this isn’t the dream start fans were promised, but when has a newly built dream team started out clicking right from the start and got better as time goes by?
Kevin Love continues to shoot badly. He did finish with 19 points, but on 6-of-16 from the field to go with his 8 rebounds. He’s shooting just 36.6% from the field and might be the one having more trouble than anyone adjusting to his new role as a spot up shooter and not a guy who has the ball going through his hands to make the decision on almost every possession. Right now, it’s James, than Irving, when it comes to calling the shots on the floor.
Blatt was already criticized following the losses in Portland and Utah, but that was to be expected. Coaches, new ones, take heat when things don’t go swimmingly right away. But there is truth to the subject of learning a new offensive system. Players adjusting to new roles. Learning about their new teammates. Dion Waiters continues to stand out with his decision to now not show up for the national anthem, citing his Muslim faith as the reason. He still scored 17 points in his best game this season. It’s getting better, even when the signs don’t always show that.