The Cleveland Cavaliers are clearly hitting a right kind of stride and getting comfortable with each other, possibly playing their best game of basketball against what should be one of their most difficult rivals in the East.
The Cavs crushed the Raptors 122-100 with a fantastic second half in which they outscored Toronto 64-44. The ball was moving, the defense in the second half seemed set, smart and reactive in just the right amount and there was no longer the feeling or the necessity for someone to take the game on his shoulders, by himself.
Kyrie Irving had his highest scoring game of the season with 25 points, and for the first time scoring in double digits in consecutive games. Just like in the win over the Magic, there was no need for players to do too much and play too many minutes, something teams like the Cavaliers embrace with both arms and don’t let go. Irving played 29 minutes, a new season high for him, which means he’s closer and closer to where he was before the injury.
J.R. Smith thrives when there are open shots and the offense doesn’t get stuck, finishing with 24 points on 8-of-14 from beyond the arc. LeBron James scored 20 points on 7-of-11 from the field, adding 7 assists and 3 steals, while Irving also had 8 assists. Tristan Thompson, now in the lineup as Timofey Mozgov can’t seem to find his form from last season, finished with 14 points, just like Kevin Love. With the lineup scoring 97 points, there wasn’t any need for some serious firepower from the bench.
The Cavaliers have won four in a row, their second longest streak of the season, which puts them three games ahead of both the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat, who aren’t likely to bridge the gap any time soon. The disappointment against the Golden State Warriors seems to be buried in the past, only popped up to serve as motivation, not a source of misery and depression, which it seemed to be in the loss a day later against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The more Irving gets comfortable with playing 30 minutes or so each night, the better the Cavaliers will be. Just how good? This win against a very good but tired Raptors team might only be the beginning, although it’s the blueprint to how they should look on most nights, without anyone forced to go out of his way and try to take over while saving the day. LeBron James, of all players, appreciates that the most.