While the media had plenty of buzz-worthy headlines related to Cleveland’s roster leading into Friday’s game against John Wall and the Washington Wizards, LeBron James and the Cavaliers were preparing to try out a new way of playing ball. Before the game, the media wanted to talk about LeBron’s cryptic tweet and wondered if it was bad news for the Cavs that King James made another trip to Florida to see former Miami Heat teammate Dwayne Wade. Rumors continued to surface about Kyrie Irving being unhappy in Cleveland. And just like LeBron, he sat against Washington earlier in the week. Kevin Love rested against the same opponents on Friday.
After Friday’s game, in which the Cavaliers destroyed the Wizards, the sports media world was focused on something actually related to basketball: Cleveland appeared to be trying a new style of basketball. And as ESPN reported, it looked something like Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors.
Coming off the embarrassing loss in Washington (which followed a close defeat in Toronto), the core of the Cleveland Cavaliers stepped up their game when the Indiana Pacers came to town. The combination of James, Irving, Love, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson accounted for 93 of Cleveland’s 100 points, as all five players put in more than 33 minutes of game play. While the Cavs are certainly capable of blowing out a team like Indiana, Cleveland was on-point the entire game, never allowing the Pacers to gain a significant lead. As the end of the regular season approaches, Cleveland proved that they have the chemistry required of a championship-caliber team.
LeBron's 33 Pts helps Cavs squeak by Pacers, 100-96.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 1, 2016
Cleveland is now 85-25 when LeBron scores 18+ Pts. pic.twitter.com/dvS8q0iCJk
When given a chance for retribution against Washington, Cleveland took full advantage. With Love on the bench, James and Timofey Mozgov served as the “bigs” for the Cavaliers. They were joined at tip-off by Irving, Smith, and Iman Shumpert. And even with Love taking the night off, the Cavaliers had their most decisive win in almost two months. If Love had started instead of Mozgov, it’s possible that Cleveland would have had their most dominant game of the season.
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) March 5, 2016
Ever since Golden State emerged as the most dominant team in the NBA, they have completely changed the game. No longer concerned with having the biggest and strongest players in the league, the Warriors have seemingly ushered in a new ear of professional basketball that centers around their so-called “small ball” style of play. While the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs used to rule the Western Conference, Curry and the Warriors have redefined what a successful basketball team looks like.
Since announcing that he’d be returning to Cleveland, the media has expected nothing less than for LeBron James and the Cavaliers to bring home a much-needed championship to the “Forest City.” Will Tyronn Lue continue to utilize this style of play? Will the Cavs continue to thrive under a small-ball scheme when Kevin Love is added to the equation? And most importantly, will this adjustment in basketball philosophy be enough to get Cleveland past the Warriors in the NBA Finals?
After such a successful outing against the Wizards last night — while sitting one third of their Big 3 — will the Cavs keep LeBron at the four position as they welcome the Boston Celtics to The Q? The Celtics are currently second in the Atlantic Division behind the Toronto Raptors with a record of 38-25. They are third overall in the Eastern Conference, 6.5 games behind the Cavaliers. They are coming to Cleveland off of a five-game winning streak, all of which came at the TD Garden.
Where to watch
Tonight’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics game can be seen on local affiliate FOX Sports Ohio. Coverage from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/6:00 p.m. Central.
[Image via Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]