It was the first time Kevin Love played against his former team. Andrew Wiggins had a chance to face the team that drafted and traded him. In between all of that was an actual basketball game, won by the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-104 as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving proved to be too much for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The clashing between Wiggins and James was an intriguing one, but it didn’t really decide the fate of the game. With the Timberwolves missing so many of their key players (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin), they’re almost like a D-League team out there. Wiggins did lead them with 27 points, looking extra motivated to prove his initial NBA team wrong, but there was really nothing apart from him to keep his team from falling to 5-22 this season.
Irving led the Cavaliers with 29 points in his best game in almost a month. LeBron James had no problems or difficulties because of Wiggins guarding him, although the number one draft pick did say after the game that defending Kobe Bryant previously this season was more difficult. James scored 24 points, hitting four 3-pointers while Kevin Love scored 20 points against his former team. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, ending a two-game drought which is rare for him, averaging 16.9 points and 10.5 boards this season.
While there continues to be talk about the Cavaliers thinking about trading Dion Waiters, the shooting guard had his second good game coming off the bench, this time scoring 19 points. The Cavaliers didn’t have one big run to end the game, instead slowly building their lead and winning all four quarters, shooting 52.4% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Despite turning the ball over 17 times, the Timberwolves continue to look like such a mess on both ends of the floor it really didn’t make any difference.
Anthony Bennett, one of the four number one draft picks in the game (along with James, Irving and Wiggins) scored 0 points. The Cavaliers don’t feel any regret about sending Wiggins away, yet, and they certainly don’t have any about including Bennett in that deal. He might not be useless as in some of his rookie games, but he’s averaging only six points a night, certainly not the kind of production you expect from a lottery pick or even a first round one.
James, averaging 25.2 points per game and 7.6 assists a night. He is right now in the NBA’s top five in both categories, including second in scoring behind James Harden. The last NBA player to finish the season in the top five of both was Allen Iverson in the 2004-2005 NBA season. Before that it was Tiny Archibald in the 1975-1976 season. As you can see, it’s quite rare for a player to do so well in comparison to the rest of the league in both categories.
The Cavaliers have hit their stride, winning nine of their last ten at home and keeping a safe but manageable distance from the more successful (so far) teams in the Eastern conference. In order for things to keep up and for them to make a challenge on the top spot because as we can see from their ability home & away so far, playing at home is going to be a huge key for them later down the road, it’s going to take these kind of performances: All All-Star trio members not disappearing in action, while at least one bench player shows up in a big way. Too bad not every day is Minnesota day.