LeBron James emphatic block set the stage for his walk-off jump shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and in the process might have just saved the Cleveland Cavaliers season.
Typically a win in early February does not go a long way in determining how a team’s season will wind up.
But the Cavaliers 140-138 overtime victory over the Minnesota last night could be just what Cleveland needed to get back on the right track.
This performance by Cleveland was unexpected by many, given their second half performance in Orlando just 24 hours earlier.
However LeBron James reminded us all (for about the 100th time in his career) that he is still the best player in the game today. James recorded his ninth triple-double of the season (37 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists) and was 16-22 from the floor and 5-7 from beyond the arc.
— NBA (@NBA) February 8, 2018
James rescued the Cavaliers toward the end of regulation by drilling a game-tying three. Then in overtime LeBron made a game-tying corner three, a game-tying layup, blocked Jimmy Butler’s game-winning attempt and then hit the game-winning shot from the foul line.
James also scored or assisted on all 11 of Cleveland’s points in overtime, are you surprised? This could very well be the clutchest performance by any player this season.
“T-Lue drew up something great,” James said postgame. “They couldn’t take a body off Kyle (Korver) and I was able to get a good rip screen and then just tried to sit down and not allow Jimmy to get around me and once I caught it just trusted everything I’ve done in my career.”
A WINE & GOLD WALKOFF WINNER pic.twitter.com/WjzmLrBTsl
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 8, 2018
LeBron was not the only Cavaliers player who stepped up last night. This victory took a total team effort.
Cedi Osman played 21 big-time minutes for the Cavaliers. Tyronn Lue’s decision to stick with him late was a great move and paid dividends in the end.
Lebron was very complimentary of Osman after the game, “He doesn’t know. He’s out there just playing for the love of the game. He’s going to make mistakes, which is ok, but his purity of the game is infectious to our team. He hasn’t been in many situations, so he’s not even going to trip about what’s going on.”
J.R. Smith had a stellar game, scoring 20 points on 7-14 shooting while Tristan Thompson recorded 17 points and 5 rebounds. Cleveland’s bench also played a vital role against the Timberwolves, as they scored 43 points and the five bench players combined for a plus-23 rating.
Postgame Smith said “We’ve been playing bad basketball of late but we are still in a good spot. We have a great mindset and we got great spirit and we really believe we’ll be alright.”
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) February 8, 2018
James reached another milestone in his career last night. He passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904 rebounds) for first place in Cavaliers franchise history in rebounds. James is now one of three players in league history to lead a franchise in points, rebounds, and assists. Michael Jordan (Bulls) and Kevin Garnett (Timberwolves) are the only other two to accomplish this feat.
Isaiah Thomas, who has been heavily criticized since his return to the court, played well Wednesday night. Thomas only took eight shots and scored 13 points and dished out 7 assists. This was arguably the most efficient performance by Thomas in his 14 games for the Cavaliers.
“I just think we’re a better team than what we showed,” Thomas said. “We know we can play a lot better. Even tonight we feel like we could’ve played a better game. The most important thing is the win, and for it to be on national TV that was good for people to see us win as well.”
BLOCKED BY JAMES pic.twitter.com/WBWqFOgXE8
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 8, 2018
But the main issue that was prevalent (yet again) was the Cavaliers inability to play defense. Minnesota shot 58 percent from the floor and shot just about the same percentage (57.6%) from beyond the arc.
Jimmy Butler led the T-Wolves with 35 points while Karl Anthony-Towns scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague added 14 points and 15 assists.
The Cavaliers simply cannot try and outscore their opponents every game. This win covers up another lackluster defensive performance, but as the old adage goes, a win is a win. In a long season, a crazy victory like this one can do wonders for the Cavaliers going forward.
This win brings the team closer together and can re-energize a team struggling to find their way.
Now obviously this win will not mean much of the Cavaliers come out flat against the last place Atlanta Hawks Friday night.
With the trade deadline just hours away, it remains to be seen how this team will look moving forward. Changes still definitely need to be made to this roster as the team is far from where they need to be.
But for one night, the Cavaliers alleviated the concerns surrounding a team that is just 7-13 since Christmas. While their are still plenty concerns surrounding Cleveland, a wild team win like this one can jumpstart the Cavaliers season and get them back on the right track.