The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to look good, LeBron James continues to be great. He led an excellent team performance for a 127-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks, a fourth consecutive victory for the Cavs, this coming with acceptable defense and an elite shooting performance.
How elite? They made their first 11 3-point attempts, shot 78% from the field during the first quarter which included 9-of-9 from beyond the arc, and finished with 19-of-31 from three, 61.3%. Maybe the most important number came in the assists column. While the ball didn’t move very well during the first four games for a newly assembled team with the stars having to adjust to the new circumstances, things have changed. The Cavaliers peaked in this game with 39 assists on their 49 field goals.
And beyond what the team is doing, there’s LeBron James. Last season he lost the MVP award to Kevin Durant. While he remained the popular selection for the first building block any GM would choose to start a team with, he entered this season as the second best basketball player in the world. But Durant got injured, and James, after a few rough outings to restart his relationship with Cavaliers fans, has been playing on a different level compared to the rest of the NBA over the last few weeks.
His latest performance? Scoring 32 points in only 29 minutes to go with six rebounds and seven assists. He shot 13-of-20 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 35 points per game over the last three, including 8.3 assists a night while shooting 59.3% from the field and knocking down 47% of his 3-point attempts. Most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like he’s trying too hard to get those numbers.
There were other very interesting tidbits from this game, which was pretty much over after the first quarter. Dion Waiters didn’t do all too well, scoring nine points on 4-of-11 from the field, but he was on the floor for all the big runs, finishing with an incredible +/- of 45. Tristan Thompson, scoring 15 points in 24 minutes, finished with a +38, as the bench for the Cavs did very well during garbage time to further the humiliation.
Kyrie Irving was the faithful and reliable sidekick once again, scoring 20 points to go with five assists and four 3-pointers. Kevin Love was hot early on but struggles in his role as a post up stretch forward. He scored 13 points on 5-of-12 from the field and connected three times from beyond the arc. He’s the number three guy on this team unless something changes, with Irving averaging 26.3 points over the last three games. Love? He’s shooting just 37.7% from the field, scoring a total of 25 points in the last two games.
The Cavaliers don’t have the best record in the East (yet), but they’re playing better basketball than anyone else. James is flourishing in the starring role, Irving seems to be better suited for playing second fiddle, being a scoring point guard who doesn’t get the attention from defenses he used to, while moving Shawn Marion into the starting lineup is slowly paying dividends. The moment Kevin Love stops looking so shaky with his shooting, the Cavaliers will look like the scariest team in the league.