Maybe it helps build up more hate for the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James that they’ve endorsed Tyronn Lue so quickly and keep praising him and the difference compared to the David Blatt era, but in a league that’s about winning and not a lot else, their 117-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs and overall form since the coaching change was made is the only thing that matters.
The Cavaliers are now 4-1 since Lue displaced Blatt as the head coach of the Cavaliers. Whether it was an inside job with the help of LeBron James and others or simply something the management had to do, the Cavaliers for now look like a happy bunch, playing quicker basketball and the results show that the difference made sense, although going 30-11 doesn’t exactly mean you should get fired.
The Spurs, still without Tim Duncan, lost for the second time in 16 games and gave up their most of the season except for that 30-point drubbing at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard wasn’t capable of slowing down James this time, as the myth of him being the “kingslayer” has been blown wildly out of proportions. When other players on the Cavaliers (or dating back to 2014, the Miami Heat) are involved, it’s very difficult focusing just on James.
Both LeBron and Kevin Love spoke about how Lue cleared the air and made things alot clearer and simpler for everybody, hinting that their roles weren’t exactly sorted out under Blatt, or that the locker room wasn’t exactly united. It might also say something about the loyalty of NBA players to a coach they don’t fully believe in, but at the root of it, you can’t chuck an entire roster of players just because the coach is a nice guy. Professional sports can be a nasty business, and getting fired is part of it.
Back to the win. James scored 29 points to go with 7 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals as the Big Three completed another game with impressive scoring, combining to score 71 points. Both Love and Irving had 21 each with Love also grabbing 11 rebounds. When the trio have this kind of scoring night going, the rest doesn’t matter all that much. Matthew Dellavedova added 15 off the bench while both Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith scored 10 points.
The Spurs didn’t do too badly on offense, but it seemed that the best defense in the NBA was a little bit underprepared for the new look Cavaliers, with the pace being especially difficult for them. San Antonio are used to playing slower basketball and limiting possessions, but when you can’t get any stops (Cavaliers shot 54.1% from the field and turned the ball over just nine times) you’re not going to be the one setting the terms of a contest. Kawhi Leonard led them with 24 points.
With all of the turmoil and upheaval, the Cavaliers are still by far the best team in the Eastern conference, and possibly only getting better. The Raptors are only 2.5 games behind them, but we’ll be shocked if Cleveland don’t finish first in the East by the end of the regular season, and make the NBA finals at the end of the Eastern conference playoffs. More likely than not, unless something changes from now until May, the Spurs isn’t going to be a team they meet again before the 2016-2017 season.