With return of rhythm, LeBron offers reminder of greatness
CINCINNATI — Random observations from the Cavaliers’ 98-93 preseason win over the Indiana Pacers at Xavier University on Wednesday:
1. LeBron James returned after a night of rest — and man, was he good. Actually, we’ve all seen LeBron much better, but still. The guy ended the night with 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting and barely seemed to break a sweat. Instead, he spent almost the entire fourth quarter yucking it up with Kyrie Irving on the bench.
2. Cavs fans (and some media members) may have forgotten about James’ greatness a little. You can’t blame them. Some couldn’t bear to watch him during his four seasons with the Miami Heat. But he served up a solid reminder Wednesday. It wasn’t just about the scoring. He just made winning play after winning play, and it was all just so seamless. Cavs coach David Blatt summed up LeBron’s night in two words: "Beautiful basketball."
3. LeBron really seems to be utilizing the one-legged fadeaway jumper from mid-range on a consistent basis. I counted three such shots Wednesday (and I admittedly don’t watch every last second of every game, or anything close). Anyway, LeBron made them all, and even drew a foul on one.
4. LeBron on his night: "If you move the ball and cut, you can be the recipient of a lot of great offensive sets. If I have a look, I take it. If I have a lane, I take it. For me, it’s about getting the best shot possible."
5. James entered the night shooting a paltry 31 percent from the field, hitting just 6 of 19 attempts in two games. So yeah, this one had to feel good.
6. One final LeBron observation: With Irving (sore ankle) still out, he spent a lot of time bringing the ball up the floor and getting the Cavs into their offense. On one occasion when Matthew Dellavedova grabbed a rebound, James firmly called for the ball, brought it up, and set up Delly for a wide-open shot.
7. In case you missed it, James sort of proposed the idea of the NBA cutting down the number of regular-season games. You can read my story about it here.
8. I know the games don’t count, but here’s an encouraging stat for the Cavs: Through four preseason games, they are draining 83 percent of their free throws (79 of 95). That includes 16 of 20 vs. the Pacers. And foul shots aren’t affected by the meaningless vibe of the preseason. They’re the same no matter where you play.
9. Kevin Love suffered a stiff neck in the first half after a few hard collisions, but Blatt said it’s not serious. The Cavs will re-evaluate before Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. My guess is Love won’t play. But that’s exactly what I said it is: a guess.
10. The Cavs cut way back on their 3-point attempts, something Blatt said he wanted to see. They took 22 on Wednesday, compared to 34 on Thursday.
11. Dellavedova and A.J. Price each added 14 points for the Cavs. With as much as Irving has been banged up over his first three seasons, it may not be a bad idea to carry three point guards. Both Delly and Price have done a nice job overall.
12. Tristan Thompson continued his rebounding tear, yanking down nine in 26 minutes. He’s also doing a pretty decent job defensively. Interestingly, he’s now listed at 6-foot-10 on the roster (as opposed to the past, when the Cavs listed him at 6-9). Thompson didn’t grow in real life — only on paper. But no biggie. He’s been playing like he a 7-footer.
13. You have to feel for the Pacers. We all saw the horrific leg injury suffered by star Paul George during his Team USA stint over the summer, and guard Lance Stephenson unexpectedly departed in free agency (to Charlotte).
14. But at the very least, the Pacers always play hard and smart under coach Frank Vogel. He said the team has actually "displayed a really good spirit" in the preseason, and who knows? Maybe forward David West, center Roy Hibbert and the rest can use George’s unfortunate injury as something around which to rally.
15. The Cavs improved to 4-0 in the preseason. They host the Mavs on Friday at The Q, then head to Columbus to face the Chicago Bulls on Monday. The Pacers dropped to 1-3.