The post-trade deadline Cavaliers had their first game together against the Boston Celtics. George Hill got the start and played well. There was evident unfamiliarity with Hill, as he was often indecisive with the ball early on in the game. As the game went on, Hill and LeBron James were involved in a ton of “two-man game” and it was highly effective. Mind you this was against a Boston team who prides itself on being a “defensive” team, ranking in the top of the league in all defensive categories. Overall, I thought Hill was good (12 PTS, 3-8 FG). He showed his ability to play on both ends of the floor and be a poised veteran in a big game.
Something that can easily go unnoticed when watching an NBA team is their body language. Throughout the game, even when it was close and highly contested, the Cavs stuck together. If there was a turnover or miscommunication, they would slap hands, chalk it up and move on to the next play. Often times during the “Isaiah era,” the Cavs would seem like several different units out there on the court, even when they were winning. As this season goes on, the Cavs building camaraderie and learning together will determine their ceiling.
Jordan Clarkson looks like he is going to be a high-impact player. His energy and athleticism on both ends is something the Cavs really haven’t had at all in the last several years. His ability to get in the passing lanes, score in transition and run the pick & roll looks to be very important to the Cavs on this stretch run. He hit a couple of big threes in the third off the same action, opening up the lead and exciting the entire team. (17 PTS. 3 REB, 2 STL, 7-11 FG)
Rodney Hood showed the ability to get hot as he took seven shots in the first half. I see him having a couple of huge scoring games as he works his way into a consistent role with the Cavs. He finished with 15 points on 11 shots. His best attribute for this team might be his ability to guard multiple positions. He had success guarding Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum primarily, but his length and versatility should bode well throughout the remainder of the season.
Larry Nance Jr. didn’t see as many minutes as I initially would have expected. Either Tyronn Lue felt Tristan Thompson had it going early and decided to stick with him, or Nance didn’t have a great knowledge of what they were trying to do out there (schematically), so he kept him on the bench. Those would be my most ostensible outcomes. Going forward, Nance should get much more meaningful minutes. Depending on how he ultimately fits with the team, I could see him competing with Tristan for minutes even as Kevin Love returns.
Special shoutout to Tristan Thompson and JR Smith. Surviving the Cleveland trade exhibition has brought out the best in them. Though Tristan didn’t have the greatest stat line today (6 PTS, 4 REB, 1 BLK), his effort has been great in the last couple of games as he inches closer to the “dog” mentality he once embodied. JR has been lights out in the last couple of weeks and he looks re-energized on the defensive end, where he has struggled all season. TT and JR are going to play a huge role for the Cavs for the remainder of the season both on the court and in the locker room.
LeBron is the engine that drives this Cavaliers team. Over the last three games, The King is averaging 27.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 14.7 APG on 53% shooting. Aside from the month of January, LeBron has been nothing short of spectacular. With these new pieces in place, LeBron looks rejuvenated and ready to bring this team together on their way to a deep playoff run.