Early burst all LeBron, Cavs need vs. 'Lanced' Hornets
CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles on the Cavaliers' 97-88 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Monday:
1. The Cavs did what they needed to do after erupting to a 21-0 start. That's really the bottom line on this game. Nothing too exciting, nothing too dramatic. And some nights in the NBA, that's what happens. You build a big lead, you get bored, you turn it on again. In the Cavs' case, all that mattered was the win.
2. The 21-0 lead, by the way, was the largest to open a game since the Portland Trail Blazers' 22-0 burst vs. the Boston Celtics way back in February 2004.
3. Unfortunately for the Cavs, the Hornets cut the lead to a measly two points in third quarter. But that seemed like a result of the Cavs just getting bored and not taking things seriously. As soon as the Hornets got close, the Cavs went on another run.
4. Needless to say, the Cavs' run was spearheaded by one LeBron James. He knows something about taking over games. "We defended," James said of how the Cavs ultimately put this one away. "Not for 48 minutes, we had a lull." But they defended when it mattered.
5. James finished with 27 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. It was as if Hornets nemesis Lance Stephenson (eight points, 4-of-12 shooting) wasn't even there.
6. Stephenson didn't defend James most of the time, but there was one memorable sequence in the second quarter. LeBron received a pass, faced the basket and waited to make his move about 15 feet from the basket. Stephenson was draped all over him. James simply lifted and shot over Stephenson's outstretched arm. Two points.
7. That's just LeBron -- he makes that sort of play all the time. What made the basket unique was Stephenson's reaction. After the ball went through the hoop, Stephenson dropped his head in disbelief. He seemed to be asking what more he could've possibly done.
8. Cavs coach David Blatt wasn't thrilled about his team allowing a 21-point lead to slip away. But he was also realistic about it. "Sometimes the toughest thing that can happen is for you to run out to such a big lead early," Blatt said. "It brings with it a little bit of psychological letdown."
9. Kevin Love (22 points, season-high 18 rebounds) was again strong from the start. As good as Love was offensively, it was his defense that received praise from Blatt, James and Kyrie Irving.
10. Kyrie on Love's D: "Tonight was definitely noticeable. We need it from him every single night on a consistent basis. I know he's going to continue to (play that way). He can do it. He's proven it, and he proved it tonight."
11. Irving finished with a solid 16 points and five assists. He has struggled shooting lately but was better Monday, finishing 6-of-14 from the floor. I was most impressed with how he dove to the floor in chase of loose balls and was a scrambling pest defensively.
12. Tristan Thompson gave another underrated showing off the bench with 10 points and five rebounds. Anderson Varejao also grabbed five boards to go with his eight points. Dion Waiters scored seven points one game after needing to spend the night in a New Orleans hospital with a nasty stomach virus.
13. Overall, the bench was iffy, though. "We've gone through some inconsistent and choppy play as far as benched is concerned," Blatt said. "Obviously, that's an area we need to get more consistency from. And we might do that through different tactics."
14. It has to get better because LeBron, Love and Irving are playing too many minutes. James and Irving again hit the 40-minute mark, with Love at 39. That shouldn't happen when you start the game on a 21-0 run.
15. James on his 13 assists and general selflessness: "That's part of my game. We've a good team when everyone feels involved. It starts with me getting everyone involved and still being aggressive. Those are good ingredients for our team."
16. The Cavs (14-9) still have four games left in this homestand. Wednesday vs. the Hawks will be interesting. The Cavs beat the living tar out of them last time -- but the Hawks are on a roll, having won eight of nine. That includes Monday's victory over the Chicago Bulls.
17. I'm not sure what's become of the Hornets (6-18). They were a nice up-and-coming team a season ago behind the likes of Kemba Walker (24 points) and Al Jefferson (14). But as one writer put it, the Hornets (6-18) got "Lanced." It was a reference to the offseason free-agent signing of Stephenson, and it may be dead on. They just aren't the same.