That was the type of vigor and resolve Byron Scott wants to see.
That was a 115-110 home win Saturday over the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that sprints down the floor and can almost will the ball into the basket with the greatest of ease.
But the Cavs, man, they really brought it.
That makes them capable of defeating anyone. That makes them maddening. That makes them young and learning and trying to find their identity.
The Cavs, it seems, can be really good when they want. But Scott doesn’t expect them to be really good. He just wants them to want.
“It’s amazing what happens when we play with energy,” Scott said. “That’s what we’ve been looking for every single night.”
Scott wasn’t agitated. Not after a win like this — where Kyrie Irving simply took over (yet again), scoring a game-high 35 points and hitting every clutch basket over Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
But Scott wasn’t exactly speaking with a smile, either.
His eyes were red, his face was worn, his tone was serious.
“When we play with this type of energy, good things can happen,” he said. “We beat the best team in the league tonight. If that doesn’t jar their brains a little bit, something’s wrong.”
All of this took place one game after Irving said he wasn’t totally interested in a loss at Detroit. He meant no harm in the comments, and Scott said they were likely taken “out of context.” What Irving was actually trying to say was he didn’t play with enough energy and focus. He was trying to shoulder the blame.
It was a different story Saturday. Man, it was a different story.
Not just for Irving, but for all the Cavs. They knew Kevin Durant would be Kevin Durant, the smoothest pure scorer this side of George “Iceman” Gervin of the gunslinging San Antonio Spurs of the 1970s and ‘80s.
They knew Westbrook would be pretty doggone good, too. And the Cavs knew the Thunder would keep the ball moving, keep the game up-tempo, and wouldn’t just collapse when trailing 92-84 midway through the fourth quarter.
And surprise, surprise. The Cavs were right.
Durant finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds. Westbrook scored 28 on 12-for-22 shooting. Serge Ibaka (18 points, 12 boards) was pretty good, too.
But guess what, ladies and gentlemen? The Cavs (14-34) just wanted it more. They just gave the ball to Kyrie, let him do his thing, and quickly realized there’d be no questioning his passion on this night.
Same goes for big man Marreese Speights, who came off the bench to tally 21 points and 10 boards. Speights has been with the Cavs for five games after the trade with Memphis, and has just been an absolute steal. Honestly, you could not ask more of the guy.
Other highlights included Tristan Thompson’s 11 points and 12 rebounds and C.J. Miles coming off the bench for 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Without question, Miles was a huge part of this win — and if you’re looking for someone who always plays his buns off, well, Miles may be your guy.
But the bottom line here is everyone needs to remember this game. Everyone has to remember that you’re not going to see the defending Western Conference champs every night. You have to play like this against the Charlotte Bobcats, too.
“I can just go by my own experiences,” Scott said of his playing days with the Magic Johnson-led Lakers. “I always had a fear of losing. That fear would make me come out and play (with energy). It didn’t matter who it was. I get up more for Boston or Philly or Detroit or whoever. It was everybody.”
The coach wants his own young players to develop that mentality. And he doesn’t want to have to keep telling them.
“Hopefully, our guys go home tonight and say, ‘Hey, you know what? We got to play this way every single night,’” Scott said. “It still doesn’t guarantee we’re going to win. But at least it gives us an opportunity.”