At home for the first time this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Miami Heat at the Quicken Loans Arena Friday night. The arena had an electric buzz to it and was packed to the brim as Cavs fans came out to support their beloved team in their home opener.
The Cavaliers came away with a 102-92 win, led by LeBron James and his 29 points, along with Kevin Love’s 24 point, 14 rebound performance. Miami was led by Dwyane Wade with 25 points and Chris Bosh with 16.
You could tell it was going to be a special night early when Mo Williams took the microphone and went to center court right before the start of the game and quickly mentioned how happy he was to be back in Cleveland. Williams’ brief statement was met with tremendous applause and cheers throughout the stadium. It was easy to see just how happy Cleveland was to have him back.
It’s well-known throughout the league, just how good of friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are. So it was no surprise when they shared a moment before the tip to greet each other with one of their intricate hand shakes. Some would say they don’t like seeing stuff like that, considering they are enemies once they hit the court, but if you ask me, I’m all for it. The two guys are best friends and have a history together. How can you get mad that they shared a special moment before the game? Put yourself in the situation and tell me you’d do it differently.
After their game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, LeBron was quoted saying that Kevin Love would be the “main focus of the offense” this season. Friday night, glimpses of that statement were noticeable.
Kevin Love got the ball early and often, and even though LeBron had 10 quick points in the first quarter and 29 total on the game, the focus of the offense was clear. Get the ball to Kevin Love. Whether it was on straight post feeds, or on pick and pops, the ball was going to Kevin Love, and he was making the Heat pay.
Not only can Love post up, spot up for three, and take it to the basket, but he’s also a very good and willing passer, and showed it again tonight with 5 assists. He’s always looking for his teammates, and so far this season has made a few nice connections with fellow teammates on the court, one of them being Timofey Mozgov.
LeBron had his most effective game of the young season, scoring 29 points, on 13-19 from the field while also pulling down 5 boards with 4 assists, but it was Love who looked like the Kevin Love of old on Friday night. By that I mean, the Kevin love who went to three all-star games in Minnesota and averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists in his last season with the Timberwolves.
In fact, Friday night his numbers looked very similar to those averages that he had with the Timberwolves in 2013, as he scored 24 points, took down 14 boards and had 5 assists. Basically what I’m saying is, LeBron seems to be onto something when he said Love will have a “hell of a year” this season, and that he would return to an all-star level.
Maybe it’s just a hoax, but I believe LeBron. If he wants to continue his career into his late 30’s, and all signs point to that being the case, he’s going to have to take a backseat at times and let others take over. This season may be the start of that with his statement about Love being the main focus of the offense.
The team he has around him now may be the most talented team he’s ever played on, and if he manages to step back a little and let others take charge (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love), he just might be able to ride off into the sunset with a few more championship rings by the end of his career.
Friday nights game story line was a bit different than it was on Wednesday against Memphis. The two stars took over against Miami, with LeBron and Love combining for 53 points. The bench still played extremely well, and even expanded a lead to 15 with no starters in the game at one point. The 15 point lead was partly due to Matthew Dellavedova’s outstanding play during the stretch.
Dellavedova finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists, and stole minutes from Mo Williams in the second half because he was playing so well. The work Dellavedova put in during the offseason is definitely showing. Along with Delladova, Tristan Thompson showed why he’s worth his $82 million contract, with 13 points and 9 rebounds on 6-9 shooting, in only 26 minutes played. Dellavedova and Thompson connected on lobs multiple times in the second half, and Thompson even had a block on a Chris Bosh dunk attempt in the fourth quarter which got the crowd fired up.
The Cavaliers are putting things together well. Coach David Blatt said after the game that the defense is right where it was towards the end of last season during the playoffs and he likes what he is seeing. This team still has yet to get back their all-star starting point guard in Kyrie Irving, and defensive guru Iman Shumpert, so the only way they will go from here is up.
The Cavaliers travel to Philadelphia next to face the 76ers on Monday night. Tipoff is at 7pm.
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