My what a difference a week makes.
Last Saturday night the Cleveland Cavaliers walked off the floor at Quicken Loans Arena after suffering a 120-88 loss to the Houston Rockets. It appeared as if the Cavaliers had hit rock bottom.
But then Cleveland’s front office made three separate trades and overhauled 40 percent of their roster in order to fix their problems.
After yesterday afternoon’s dominating victory in Boston, it appears as if Cleveland is back on the right track.
Cleveland and Boston battled back and forth in the first quarter, but the final three quarters belonged to the Cavaliers.
Although the four newest members of the Cavaliers only had limited time to practice with their new team, they still showed their full potential in Beantown.
George Hill was the only one of the four to start Sunday’s game. In 21 minutes Hill scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds. More importantly Hill did something we have not seen a Cavaliers point guard do in a long time, play defense.
The effort Hill gave on defense was refreshing to see. If Cleveland can get a consistent defensive performance from Hill, it will only help the Cavaliers moving forward. Hill is a guard that does not need to have the ball in his hands to be effective, as we saw yesterday afternoon.
Of the four newest Cavaliers, Jordan Clarkson arguably had the best game. Clarkson entered the game as just a 32.4 percent three-point shooter, but hit 3-4 on his way to a 17-point performance in his debut.
Clarkson’s solid outing put energy into the entire team, and gave fans reason to be excited for the remainder of the season.
Rodney Hood, the player many were surprised to see Cleveland land at the deadline, also played well in his first game wearing Wine and Gold.
The 6’8″ wing forward wasted little time making his presence felt on the floor. Hood found himself on the receiving end of a few crisp passes that turned into open jump shots. Unfazed by the moment Hood knocked down 6-11 shots on his way to 15 points and 3 rebounds.
LeBron James plays best when he is the alpha and has quality role players around him. Hood as well as Clarkson and Hill give this Cavaliers team the chance to thrive. If this is what Cleveland looks this cohesive in game one, imagine what they will look like when this new team has a chance to gel.
James played quite well for the third game in-a-row, putting up 24 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and was able to sit the entire fourth quarter.
Larry Nance Jr. also had a few nice moments as well. All in all there is hope once again for the Cavaliers this season.
When the dust settled Cleveland walked out of Boston with a 121-99 victory. The 121 points were the most the top-rated Celtics defense had allowed all season.
James spoke very highly of his new teammates during his postgame interview. “I know the guys that are here are very excited about this opportunity,” James said. “It’s my job to as the leader of this team to make sure that I acclimate the new four guys to be around a culture that’s built around winning.”
The debut of these four new Cavaliers also has positive implications on the rest of the roster. J.R. Smith, who has been in a funk the majority of the 2017-18 season, had a vintage J.R. game yesterday afternoon.
Smith, who shot 6-7 from the floor on his way to scoring 15 points, once again looked confident out on the floor. Smith knows if he does not perform well that there are now players behind him that will take his starting spot.
Overall this is just one game and it is important not blow it out of proportion, as there is still a lot of work to be done. But Sunday’s performance was an encouraging sign for a team that was marred in mediocrity for much of the season.
What is important now is that the Cavaliers build off of this impressive victory. A high-profile win over Boston will not mean as much if they come of flat tomorrow night in Oklahoma City.
The reactions on the bench throughout the game said it all, Cleveland is rejuvenated and ready to roll. While they still need to prove they are once again among the NBA’s elite, one thing is for sure, the Cavaliers are in a better position at competing for a championship then they were a week ago.