LeBron, Cavs come through in winning time. Again.
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers' 106-90 victory over the host Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday:
1. Well, that was probably a lot closer than it should've been. I know, it sounds ridiculous to say a 16-point win was "close." But the Cavs actually trailed (79-76) heading into the fourth quarter. Then it was LeBron James Time.
2. Like I said about the Miami Heat in the four seasons prior to this, they have LeBron James and no one else does. By that, I meant you could never count out the Heat -- regardless of circumstance.
3. Today, that's the case for the Cavs. LeBron appears mostly healthy again, and that is flat-out bad news for the rest of the league. I don't care if his teammates are you, me and two guys from the West Akron Dork League.
3. The Cavs (29-20) have won 10 straight. They're 22-1 when they score at least 102. That second stat is almost more impressive than the first.
4. Anyway, back to this particular game. James just took over in the fourth. I kind of had a feeling he would. The Cavs were playing their fourth in five nights and their second in two. They looked tired, bored and way too willing to let Andrew Wiggins do whatever he wanted. Wiggins was traded to the Timberwolves in August. The Cavs received Kevin Love in return. That you know. Hopefully, you also know Wiggins really, really wants the Cavs to think they made a mistake. Well, here's a newsflash: They don't.
5. Wiggins had a wonderful game, scoring a career-high 33 points. He will be a fantastic pro. But Love scored the game's most back-breaking basket -- a rebound and putback late in the fourth. It was a winning play, and the Cavs want to win a lot and do it now. Wiggins, on the other hand, scored two points in the fourth quarter for a team with an 8-39 record.
6. That's not intended to trash Wiggins. But Love finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. What he brings to the Cavs right NOW is way better than anything Wiggins could offer. You can disagree and you can talk about the future. And I will totally respect your right to be wrong.
7. Or as Cavs coach David Blatt said after the game: "Look, at the end of the day no one wanted to see Andrew go. (But) with LeBron coming back, what did what we needed. ... Andrew is already a fine pro. I think it was a good deal all the way around."
8. Bottom line: Wiggins is getting numbers on a BAD team. How would he do on a winning team? Along with his 33 points, he grabbed just one rebound and passed for one assist. He will get better in those areas. But the Cavs needed size and relentlessness near the rim. And Love, at his worst, is a borderline All-Star who admittedly is still finding his way next to James and Kyrie Irving. For the Cavs, the deal was a no-brainer.
9. OK, enough about that. James finished with 36 points, scoring 13 straight and 16 overall in the fourth. As reader Martin Reese mentioned on Twitter, at one point, Wiggins held a 28-18 scoring advantage over LeBron. But I sat there repeatedly thinking this: "No way LeBron lets the kid outscore him." I had a feeling LeBron was gonna end this thing once and for all -- and somewhere during his one-man scoring streak, he threw down a two-handed slam on the entire state of Minnesota. Right then, it was all over for Wiggins and the young Wolves.
10. LeBron told FOX Sports Ohio: "These guys look up to me. I have to do the things that need to be done."
11. Of course, there's the small matter of Love returning to Minnesota for the first time. He spent the first six years of his career there. Not surprisingly, he was booed -- first during player introductions, then after scoring the Cavs' first basket. He was hardly dominant. But he was good and his team won. Cleveland fans have too often been on the wrong end of that storyline. Things are different for them now, and they should be grateful for it.
12. LeBron to FOX Sports Ohio on Love's return: "He handled it well. You can say what you want about it being just another game, but it's a lot. I'm happy I was able to help him get through it."
13. Blatt on Love's return: "I thought he handled it beautifully. And you know what? I thought his teammates handled it beautifully as well. That was nice to see."
14. While just about everyone looked tired, others played well for the Cavs, too. Timofey Mozgov finished with 14 points in 17 minutes. Matthew Dellavedova hit a couple of important 3-pointers on his way to 10 points. Kyrie Irving (12 points) struggled to 4-of-16 shooting, but just his presence alone is always a threat. He could certainly use a day off to do nothing but watch the Super Bowl on his couch.
15. And Tristan Thompson, man, the guy has just been so underrated. He keeps so many plays alive with his hustle and determination on the offensive glass. Thompson finished 13 rebounds and a whopping FOUR blocked shots. Over the last six games, the Cavs big man is averaging 11 boards a night.
16. Finally, Blatt wasn't overly concerned with the Cavs struggling early. Especially since they did what they needed to do in the end. Also, their defense in the fourth quarter was superb. "That was our fourth game in five nights," Blatt said. "Sometimes it takes you a little bit longer than usual to get your hands around a game. We showed some maturity, we showed some professionalism, and found a way to right ourselves."
17. The soft-spoken Wiggins was gracious in defeat. "It's always a motivation game against Cleveland, especially when they have one of the all-time greats in LeBron," he said. "That's motivation for me, I'm sure it is motivation for the whole team."
18. There was a time when the Cavs were adament they weren't going to trade Wiggins, the No. 1 overal ldraft pick. But Wiggins clearly holds no grudge. "God does things, works in mysterious ways and I feel like this is the best spot for me," he said. "I feel like I've grown a lot more here than I would've there."