Kasler: Cavs starting to bully in a good way
The Cavaliers are bringing home one well-earned and decisive 115-92 victory over the Thunder.
Playing without Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Mo Williams and, for all but nine minutes of the game, Kyrie Irving, Cleveland took it to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company in posting a 115-92 win Sunday. Below are a few postgame musings, including a thought on bullying:
1. Westbrook narrowly missed a triple-double, falling one rebound short. While he played what, for him, might be considered a pedestrian game, there is no way to understate his unique athleticism. If you don’t get to see many Thunder games, Westbrook’s ferocity in transition and attacking the rim is really fun to watch
2. Watching Dion Waiters sputter his way to a 1-of-8 shooting night had me wondering if the only thing keeping him in the league is draft status. Really, what need is there for an undersized shooting guard with average quickness and an ugly jump shot? Mix in the fact he facilitates just about nothing for his teammates and isn’t close to a lockdown defender, and all you’re left with is how high he was drafted and his relative youth.
3. Kevin Love was great. His box score supports that, for sure, but what made him great Sunday was his energy level. Love was active all game, looking to score and create, and grabbing some physical rebounds. And for those who want to correlate Kyrie’s absence in this game with Kevin’s strong output, I would submit that Irving’s presence should not impact how hard and active Love plays each game.
4. In other words, Love demanding the ball and making decisive moves once he gets it should be routine. He can control that, no matter who is on the court beside him.
5. There were a handful of enjoyable possessions matching LeBron one-on-one with Durant. LeBron played him tough, but, man, KD is a handful when you’re on the perimeter with no help in the immediate vicinity.
6. Timofey Mozgov again played quality minutes. He is moving well and still has a really soft touch for a big man. He did fumble one easy pass from LeBron, and I almost cringed, thinking, “Anyone but LeBron!” as in, “If you’re going to flub a pass, make it be one from any teammate but James.” By now, we all know Timo is in for a confidence-rattling earful from LeBron for just about every miscue.
7. From the third quarter on, the Cavs turned into bullies. It’s an attitude and swagger that has been wholly missing this year, but it emerged in the second half of this game.
8. What do I mean by bullies? It was more than just blowing out a very good Thunder team, even with key pieces missing. It was Love getting chippy with Serge Ibaka and winning that mental battle. It was Love and LeBron late in the game running pick-and-roll repeatedly, daring the Thunder to stop them. It was J.R. Smith knocking down dagger 3-pointers. And it was readily apparent in some of the physical boards garnered by the Cavs.
9. This was the first time in a long while when the Cavs seemed happy to humiliate a quality opponent. There was a pleasant insouciance about how LeBron and company put this game on ice. Perhaps it is the start of a trend.
10. Matthew Dellavedova didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but he played a solid 29 minutes on a day when there really was no other choice with most of the Cavs backcourt players sitting out. This would have been a ridiculous question to ask just one year ago, but is it possible that Delly is the most consistent player on the roster?
11. One final thought -- you can’t help but wonder if games like this one will be the subtext to Durant’s possible departure from Oklahoma City this summer. I’ve got no interest in speculating where he might go, or if he goes at all. But you have to believe, when he looks down the sideline and sees James surrounded by two other stars and a highly paid roster of capable role players, KD doesn’t at least entertain the thought that a title with the Thunder may simply not be in the cards.