Kyrie Irving shoots four times in the first half and the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Detroit Pistons 69-37 at halftime. What a great narrative. But, two seasons ago when the Cavs were toiling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Pistons handed the Wine & Gold a 116-77 shellacking after leading 61-38 at halftime. Manny Harris was the high-scorer for the Cavs that game, tallying 18. The difference here is that, although it almost took 80 games this season, Cleveland has matured from their meager beginnings three years ago. A 122-100 victory on Wednesday and 41 assists (out of 53 field goals made) was visible proof of this.
Although Cleveland might have very little to fight for the rest of the season, the starting unit is becoming a force early on in games. Their wide array of talents and skills – which are still developing in most players, however – makes the starting five a playoff-caliber unit. By playing touch ball, as the Cavs demonstrated against the Pistons, the Cavaliers are keeping defenses on their toes, and for a young team that is a very strong advantage. Kyrie Irving is finally getting a feel for his teammates, Dion Waiters has limited the craziness in his shot selections and Luol Deng, Tristan Thompson and Spencer Hawes have an incredible range to spread the floor on both ends. Although there are holes and flaws in the bench, this unit could have kept a playoff spot all season long if they were together from the very beginning.
Just look at the mayhem Hawes caused in the first quarter. The big man for Cleveland finished the frame 5 of 5 from the field for 13 points, three of those being attempts from beyond the arc. This looks like a very efficient way for the Cavaliers to combat their big problem. If a team like Detroit is going to throw a front court of 6-11″ Greg Monroe and 6-10″ Andre Drummond, you have to expand your outside game. That is exactly what Hawes brings to the table for the Cavs, but if Cleveland (likely) lets him walk at the end of the season, they will regret it in terms of rebuilding.
It’s easy to overanalyze game situations like the one that occurred over the first nine minutes – especially against an injured Detroit club – but there’s no way that any other starting five this season than the starting five that has been taking the court over the past few games would have been able to carry a double-digit lead into the second quarter and maintain it. This was all a result of the Cavaliers’ unselfish play, as they assisted on all 14 of their field goals in the first quarter.
Leading 31-18 heading into the second quarter, Cleveland was able to rapidly build the lead up to 19 in fewer than two minutes. Not allowing their opponent to settle with a fast-transition offense and limited stationary time continue to bury the Pistons early on. Although Hawes was no longer the dark horse to spark the Cavs in this frame, Matthew Dellavedova was next up to burn the Detroit perimeter defense. Delly’s hustle earned him a 3 of 4 mark from three and 11 points in the first half.
Those big shots came during the 19-point blowout of the Pistons in the second quarter. Contributions from the bench, which proved its worth by accounting for 24 of Cleveland’s 69 first-half points, continued the trend of getting rid of the dribble in favor of fast break passes. The Cavs continued to break down the Pistons in the first half, and it was by way of pushing the pace and ball up the court to shoot almost 64 percent from the field. The result: a 32-point advantage at the half.
However, things weren’t going to be this easy for Cleveland. After being up by 34 points, Detroit narrowed the lead to 20. An onslaught of Detroit threes doomed Cleveland, but the Cavaliers still had some fight and energy left in them. With Kyrie on the bench, Dion stepped up big time, to help the Cavaliers get back to a 28-point advantage. Just missing triple digits, Cleveland took a 98-70 lead heading into the final frame.
The reserves continued to keep the Cavs comfortably ahead, and Cleveland cruised for the rest of the night.
PG Kyrie Irving – Eight points, five assists, five rebounds and three steals, while shooting 3 of 6 from the field
Very unselfish play from the Cleveland star allowed the Cavaliers to absolutely dominate the Pistons in the first half. His defense and passing created multiple points for the Wine & Gold even though he wasn’t putting up 40-plus like the game before. This performance proves that Kyrie can use his skills to make the Cavaliers a functioning team.
SG Dion Waiters – 22 points and eight assists, while shooting 9 of 18 from the field and 4 of 8 from three
Dion was a great leader with Kyrie on the bench, stepping up in the third quarter to help combat a Detroit comeback. Waiters has proven a lot over the past couple months, and this game is further proof that he’s a keeper.
SF Luol Deng – 13 points and seven assists, while shooting 6 of 12 from the field
Although Deng had an off night from three (0 for 4 from beyond the arc), he was once again a main component of Cleveland’s fast-touch offense. Not having this same starting core next year is going to set the Cavs back once again, unfortunately.
PF Tristan Thompson – 10 points, while shooting 5 of 6 (83.3 percent) from the field
Tristan helped start up the Cleveland demolition of Detroit, and he didn’t have to do much after the first quarter.
C Spencer Hawes – 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while shooting 6 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from three
Hawes got things rolling for the Cavaliers by nailing all three of his three-point attempts in the first half. His range challenged Monroe and Drummond immensely, and the Pistons had no answer to Hawes’ fast hands from beyond the arc. It’s going to be a shame if Cleveland lets him walk at the end of the season.
SG Matthew Dellavedova – 14 points, 12 assists and four rebounds, while shooting 5 of 8 (62.5 percent) from the field and 4 of 6 from three
Delly was by far the biggest spark plug off the bench for the Cavs, intimidating Detroit players on defense and getting free from beyond the arc on offense. He did it all tonight for the Cavs when they needed it, and he’s been doing the same type of work all season without padding his stats.
There’s not much to say when things go so well that the offense has no time to even set up plays to score points. Cleveland was aggressive on defense, which resulted in many fast break opportunities. This is what Mike Brown preaches, so no complaints in this department.