The role of leading the team in scoring was handed to the inconsistent Kevin Love, but the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning 102-93 against the Detroit Pistons, were pushed forward by LeBron James, becoming the all-time leader among forwards in assists, blowing by Scottie Pippen.
James finished the game with 11 assists, putthing him at 6142, seven more than Pippen has. James also scored 19 points and added 7 rebounds, helping Kevin Love finish with 24 points, all on 3-pointers, finishing with 8-of-14 from beyond the arc as he continues to swing through the highs and lows of being a “pure” stretch four on the Cavaliers, which means being the third guy in the hierarchy when it comes to where the ball goes.
Matching a career high in 3-pointers, Love led four players in double figures, including Kyrie Irving (18 points) and Timofey Mozgov scoring 14. J.R. Smith continues to surprise everyone with the restrain he’s showing, taking only four shots and not trying to do too much despite his history with both the Nuggets and the Knicks. Iman Shumpert did it for him, hitting only 20% of his attempts to score 8 points on 10 field goal attempts.
Despite doing a lot to make Kevin Love feel good about his shot, it’s not like James was all about the pass. He didn’t mind taking the ball to the basket despite being one against three on one of the transition attacks. In the whole MVP debate, James playing next to Irving and Love and also being a pass-first kind of forward on most days as opposed to shoot-first kind of guards he’s up against in the award race might prevent him from winning, butthe bigger picture is what matters.
And in this game, as it has been since his return from injury, which has seen the Cavaliers win 17 of their last 19 games, the Cavs are close to unstoppable with him on the floor. They outscored the Pistons by 27 points when James was playing, as it’s going to be difficult to lower his minutes for at least the next two weeks due to the absence of the injured Shawn Marion. It doesn’t seem like the last six weeks have slowed him down or burnt him out with fatigue.
The Cavaliers are now nine games behind the Hawks, who might be a bit too far ahead to reach. But they’re only 0.5 games behind the Bulls for third in the conference and 1.5 games behind the Raptors, who have lost their last three games. Maybe the Cavaliera are peaking a bit too soon and are bound for some sort of fall that will hurt their seeding heading into the last couple of months, but on the other hand, there’s a chance we still haven’t seen everything they can do, which is a scary thought for everyone in the league.