Dribbles: All well and balanced for Cavs in basketball ambush
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 127-94 mauling of the host Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday:
1. You won’t see the Cavs play better than that too often. Oh sure, they’ve been doing things right and winning plenty. But this was a road win over a top-notch team, and it came easily.
2. The Cavs defended, shared the ball, got Kevin Love some much-needed looks near the basket and just did everything pretty well. This is a team that can put on a clinic from time to time, and this game definitely fit that description.
3. And you know things are going well when the biggest news of the night was LeBron James playing an entire game without a headband. James, of course, also scored a game-high 27 points and passed for eight assists — surpassing legend Mark Price to become the Cavs career leader (4,214) in that department. But that was all beside the point. Cavs fans really only want the skinny on the headband.
4. That’s a joke, of course. The Cavs don’t care if LeBron plays in knee-high socks and a pair of short shorts straight out of the 1980s. All that matters are the results, and the Cavs have been getting plenty lately. Make it 22 wins in the past 27 games and again, total domination of a pretty good (albeit suddenly struggling) team.
5. Meanwhile, Love finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds in one of his best all-around performances of the season. Only six of his 17 attempts were 3-pointers, and his determination near the basket was something the Cavs love to see. Those touches down low are likely more of what Love wants, too.
6. Love summed up the evening this way: "That was a lot of fun."
7. The Mavericks won the first meeting by 19 points, and Love admitted the Cavs often go into some of these games seeking a little payback. A quick glance of the schedule shows the Cavs have indeed avenged a number of losses. Perhaps none more than this, though. This was just a beatdown.
8. How well did the ball move? No Cavs starter took more than 17 shots, and no starter took less than 10. Overall, four different Cavs finished with at least 21 points. Along with James and Love, Kyrie Irving scored 22 and J.R. Smith had an underrated 21. It was a team effort in the truest sense.
9. Irving on the offense: "Guys were screening, guys were getting open, guys were getting shots."
10. Irving truly played what Cavs coach David Blatt described as "a beautiful game." I know I write it every time, but Kyrie is having a career season — and conjuring up memories of all-time great point guards such as Nate "Tiny" Archibald and Isiah Thomas. Irving truly is among the greatest ever when it comes to spinning the ball off the backboard and irritating would-be shotblockers after a drive. Best of all, he is equally effective with either hand.
11. Blatt, Irving and Love all talked about how the Cavs played with "great pace." By that, they meant they ran the fast-break, found the open man and knocked down the shot. "We kind of made them pick their poison," Love said. "It was a mix of everything."
12. Not to be forgotten were the outstanding all-around nights of center Timofey Mozgov (17 points, tons of shot-altering) and guard Iman Shumpert (seven points, six assists and a whopping six steals). Even James Jones got in on it, burying a corner three that gave LeBron the assist record in the second quarter.
13. Defensively, the Cavs suffocated the Mavs into 40.7 percent shooting. Remember, this is a team with weapons along the lines of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Rajon Rondo. Parsons finished with 18 points and Ellis scored 17, but those numbers hardly mattered.
14. Irving totally outplayed Rondo (four points, three assists), who just hasn’t been the same since the Mavericks obtained him in a December trade with Boston. Rondo will be a free agent this summer and told Yahoo Sports he’d be open to re-signing in Dallas. But I’m wondering whether the Mavs will even want him. His skills seem to be eroding.
15. The Cavs (41-25) now lead Chicago by 1.5 games in the Central Division, as well as for the No. 2 playoff spot in the East. Toronto lost for the fourth straight time Tuesday, moving the Raptors a full two games behind the Cavs. Actually, make it three, as the Cavs won the season series and own the tie-breaker.
16. Tristan Thompson had a quiet night, but it’s still worth noting that the Cavs big man played in his 272nd straight regular-season game. That’s the second-longest streak of consecutive games in the NBA, behind only Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (304 in a row).
17. Blatt smiled when asked why LeBron may have ditched the headband. "I don’t know," he said. "But I’m liking it."