Dribbles: In one night, Cavs raise hopes and hush Love talk

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 111-89 hammer job of a victory over the host Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday:

1. If the Cavs continue to play like that, it will be hard for fans not to get their hopes way, way up. Then again, if the Cavs play like that, their fans won’t be the only ones thinking big. This was a championship-level performance on the home floor of one of the league’s steadiest, smartest and most-experienced teams.

2. What’s best about this one is it came after a couple days of non-stop buzz about the relationship between Kevin Love and LeBron James. Most of that conversation was generated by the national media, to which NBA teams cater far too often. Either way, it’s mostly fiction.

3. Love scored 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and yanked down 10 rebounds. At least a couple of his baskets came off sweet feeds from James. One was an alley-oop that James tossed from beyond the 3-point line. Love slammed it home then immediately turned toward James, the two happily acknowledging the other’s role on the play. Best friends? Maybe not. Great teammates? Apparently so.

4. By the way, Love’s rebound total was more than the amount corralled by Memphis big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (three apiece). If anyone needed a game like this against perhaps the NBA’s best frontcourt, it was Love. And he delivered.

5. Of course, this truly was a team effort — led by the Big Three of Kyrie Irving, James and Love. Irving finished with a game-high 24 points, and James scored 20 and grabbed eight boards. When those three are all in uniform, the Cavs have become virtually unbeatable since well before the All-Star break.

6. Cavs coach David Blatt: "We came to play. We were focused on having a defensive presence in the first quarter, and I thought we had that right from the get-go."

7. It’s true that I’ve focused on offense and numbers so far — but the coach makes a valid point. The Grizzlies like to pound, pound, pound the ball and try to lull you to sleep defensively. The Cavs would have none of it. Everyone from the Big Three to Timofey Mozgov to Matthew Dellavedova to Iman Shumpert got after it on defense. J.R. Smith even pinned a shot by the much taller Gasol at the rim.

8. OK, back to the offense. The third quarter was truly magical, as the ball whipped around the court, with guys making the most of their open shots. The Cavs were, in a word, unguardable. They shot 51.2 percent for the game, compared to a measly 43.5 percent for the Grizzlies.

9. A quick look at some more numbers: The Cavs are 38-5 when scoring at least 100. What makes this one so special is the Grizzlies had limited 13 straight visitors to less than 100. Also, the Cavs improved their NBA-best record since Jan. 15 to 28-6.

10. Opinion time: Only three other teams move the ball as well as the Cavs have been since mid-January. Those would be the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Other than perhaps the Warriors, the Cavs have the most individual talent of any of them.

Think your Monday was bad?

11. The reason I mention individual talent is because that’s often what can pull you through when teamwork fails. Ideally, you prefer the latter. But it sure is nice to have the former.

12. LeBron on the win: "We obviously know how great they are defensively, especially in this building. For us to move the ball and share the ball like we did was very impressive."

13. With nine games left, the Cavs (47-26) remain three ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls again beat the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday — pushing the Raptors 4.5 back and basically removing them as a threat to the Cavs.

14. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies (50-22) remain 1.5 games ahead of the Houston Rockets for No. 2 in the West.

15. Randolph on the loss: "It makes you have a sickness in your stomach because you know you’re better than that." Randolph was totally outplayed by the Cavs’ frontcourt, as he finished with five points and three rebounds. It was like he wasn’t even out there.