Last night LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Minnesota as they picked up their first win of the season by crushing the Timberwolves 104-87. The Cavaliers win against Minnesota avoids them from starting 0-3 for the first time since 2004.
James finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists even though LeBron failed to score in the last 17 1/2 minutes of the game. But thanks to good contribution from his teammates, LeBron didn’t really have to score. A solid effort from Mo Williams (20 pts), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15 pts), Daniel Gibson (14 pts), and Anderson Varejao (13 pts) sealed up a much needed win for the Cavaliers.
Shaquille O’Neal got into foul trouble early and failed to make a serious contribution to the team as he was held to 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Luckily for the Cavaliers, they have another All-Star Center coming off the bench in Zydrunas Ilgauskas who had 15 points and 5 rebounds.
The main story of the night was not a single play or performance, but an entire quarter. The second quarter has been the Achilles heel for the Cavaliers as they have been outscored 60-34 in the second quarter of their first two games. Last night the Cavaliers outscored their opponent in the second quarter for the first time of the season 32-29.
The key to the Cavaliers success last season was their defense, something that has been non-existent since last year’s Eastern Conference Championship against Orlando, something that Coach Mike Brown has come to realize.
We have to do a better job defensively. We have to have a better mindset, so whether LeBron is on the floor or not, we can still get stops.
Cleveland got the message, as they forced 17 turnovers and managed to hold the Minnesota Timberwolves to 41.9% shooting and allowed the Cavaliers to stretch it’s lead to a 21 point margin with 8 minutes remaining. The Cavaliers also managed to get great play from it’s bench last night with double digit efforts coming from Z and Daniel Gibson which made for an easy night for LeBron James.
We came into this game saying, Hey, let’s try to consistently play well from the beginning to the end and see what happens. We had a sense of urgency. Those first two games, we had spurts in those quarters, but we didn’t sustain it.
This time the Cavaliers did, and it proved so as the Cavaliers walked away with their first win of the season. Last night proved a lot of things to the Cavaliers. It showed that they don’t need a big contribution from Shaquille O’Neal to win. It also proved that the bench has the ability to keep the Cavaliers in the game.
The Cavaliers will look to use what they learned from this game as they face off against the Charlotte Bobcats tonight in Cleveland.