Whether it was LeBron James or David Blatt calling the plays on Thursday night, it didn’t matter, as the Cleveland Cavaliers steam-rolled the Miami Heat. In what could be a preview of the first-round of the NBA playoffs, Cleveland “took care of home court” by defeating James’ former team 114-88 in front of a National audience on TNT.
With Kevin Love out due to a back injury, Tristan Thompson stepped up in a big way off the bench with eight points and 15 rebounds–five of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass. His 29 active minutes were huge against the Miami bigs, as he frustrated the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen all night.
James and Kyrie Irving paced the Cavaliers with 23 points each. The Cavaliers also received a major boost off the bench from Iman Shumpert, who scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Shumpert was huge from behind the arc, going 3-of-6 from three-point land. He also showed off his relentless energy and defensive prowess, grabbing three rebounds and finishing with four steals on the day.
Though constantly drawing the ire of Cavaliers fans, backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova played a meaningful 23 minutes on the night as well. He finished the night 4-of-7 from the floor, with all four of his makes coming from behind the arc. Delly finished the night with 14 points, four assists and two steals off the bench.
On the night, the Cavaliers shot 50 percent from the field, and continued their torrid pace from behind the arc–going 15-of-35, for a 42.9 percent clip. With the penetration skills of James and Irving on display (12 combined assists), the Cavaliers three-point arsenal was on display, even with J.R. Smith having an off night (4-of-12).
Many people wondered if the Cavaliers would look to rest their starters down the stretch, but it simply was not an option at this time. This was a must-win game in terms of separating themselves a little more from the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, and they came out and took care of business.
Looking ahead, the Cavaliers host the Bulls in a Sunday afternoon game on ABC. A win in that game could pretty much wrap up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference for the Cavaliers, which is why they cannot let up. With games down the stretch against Milwaukee, Boston (twice), Detroit and Washington, Blatt’s group will have their hands full with teams trying to secure their own playoff spots.