After the Cavaliers obliterated the Pistons 116-88 Monday night at the new Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said that for most teams in the league, there a handful of games a season where things just don’t go well. And it seemed like it was definitely one of those nights for the Pistons, who had otherwise been doing fairly well so far this season, coming into Monday’s matchup 11-5.
It’s hard to say what one thing was working for the Cavs that night because, by the looks of the numbers, they simply outdid the Pistons on every front, from beginning to end.
LBJ explodes, Cavs follow suit
From the very start, LeBron James was down to business. The superstar went on to score 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter alone — his best start this season — adding to the 40 points his fellow starters scored in the first half. Some of his sequences were just dazzling, which is always fun to watch. The rest of the team went on to shoot exceptionally well from three-point range throughout the first half — particularly James, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye — and throughout the remainder of the game. The Cavs finished with 48.5 percent from three.
Post-game, James said one of the reasons his team was successful was because of the mindset each of his teammates had and that they established a good flow.
“That was 48 minutes of game plan and execution right from the beginning,” James said.
And he’s right. The third quarter has proven to be troublesome for Cleveland over the years in terms of letting opponents get back in the game, but that wasn’t the case Monday night. The Cavaliers never let up on their aggressive efforts on both ends of the floor, even when they were leading the Pistons by as many as 27 points. The persistence was there, and that’s something they need to continue to do down the stretch. They never got comfortable and continued to outplay the Pistons every chance they got.
I can’t be the only one who forgot about Jose Calderon. But I guarantee you I won’t forget again. With a number of Cavaliers out due to injury (Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert), a big opportunity fell into Caleron’s lap and let me tell you, he did not disappoint. The King himself said the game ball went to Calderon following his 14-point, four-rebound and two-assist performance in Detroit. This newer member of the team hadn’t shot more than nine shots since he became a Cavalier back in July and one has to wonder why he wasn’t getting substantial minutes sooner. I was constantly impressed by his point guard skills. He’s a true playmaker, and it was exciting to watch him flourish in his debut as a starter for Cleveland. He also led the team in minutes played with 28. He was 2-2 from three and 4-5 from the field, just an overall solid way to make an impact for this team. We couldn’t have asked for more.
So what was the key?
James says it’s execution. Teammate Dwyane Wade seems to think two days of rest is what helped the Cavs refocus. But it’s likely it was the combination of both that made the team as lethal as it was against Detroit the other night. By the looks of it, the Cavs are out of their rut, having now won seven of their last 10 games — the win in Detroit being their fifth in a row.
Wade also mentioned that James setting the tone for the team early on helped them stay on track throughout the game as well as the team’s work on defense, which forced 14 Detroit turnovers resulting in 16 points for Cleveland.
“I like our communication, you know, our attention to the game plan,” he told Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton after the game. “What we talked about earlier, trying to make it easier on ourselves and tonight was the way we communicated with the way we moved and switched when we needed to … all those things, it helps.”
Besides having a strong defensive front and banking shots, especially the three-balls, ball movement for the Cavaliers was spot on. The team played unselfishly, allowing everyone who played to score except for one player. Kevin Love leading the team in points and rebounds with 19 and 11 respectively, didn’t hurt either.
Is it unrealistic to hope the Cavs keep doing this each and every night? Not entirely, but it is the Cavs we’re talking about, so we should enjoy it while it lasts.