NBA scores 2014: Cavaliers extend win streak to eight with win over Raptors
LeBron drops 35 in a comeback win, Kobe and the Lakers wear “I can’t breath shirts,” Marc Gasol is awesome and everything else that happened in the NBA on Tuesday night.
For the first three quarters of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked once again like the turnstiles they were to open the season when they dropped seven of their first 12 games. Kyle Lowry was given myriad open lanes to drive and pass. Jonas Valanciunas could do whatever he wanted down on the block. Every Raptor was given an open transition basket anytime one of them decided to push the ball down the court. It was a disappointing start for Cleveland, one that looked like it would end the team’s current seven game win streak.
In the fourth quarter, all of that changed. Suddenly the Raptors couldn’t find any breathing room on offense, scoring just 13 points and connecting on only six of 20 shots. This, after hitting 58 percent of their attempts over the game’s first three quarters. The Cavs, behind that defensive effort, were able to scratch out a 105-101 comeback victory, and their second win in two nights. They’ve now won eight in a row.
LeBron James led the way for Cleveland (13-7) with 35 points on 12-21 shooting, including ten points in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer from the top of the key with 48 seconds left broke a 99-99 tie, and turned out to be the game-winning shot. (It also put James in a tie with Mark Price for most career three pointers made by a Cavalier. The two exchanged pleasantries on Twitter after the game.)
However it was the Cavs’ late defensive effort that cinched the comeback. Led by reserve guard Matt Dellavedova, who played the entire fourth quarter and was tasked with guarding Lowry, the Cavs figured out ways to take away all of the clean looks they had allowed Toronto to get earlier on. Lowry finished the game with 16 points and 14 assists, but was held to one fourth quarter basket. Valanciunas, who had 18 points on the night, hit just two shots in the second half.
Cleveland also got major contributions from Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. Waiters finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting, and his 12 first half points helped make up for the Cavs’ leaky defense. Thompson had five points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, and eight points and eight rebounds overall. He was also active on defense. His pressure on Kyle Lowry with 25 seconds remaining, and with the Cavs up one, forced a miss which sealed the game and win for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers now trail the first place Raptors by two games in the Eastern Conference standings. They’ll go for their ninth win in a row Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
Three other things we learned
NBA players are going to continue to speak out on political and social issues. The latest example came Tuesday night in Los Angeles, where Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers paid tribute to Eric Garner by wearing “I can’t breathe” shirts on the Staples Center court before their game against the Kings. This, after NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Monday that he’d prefer the league’s players “abide by the on-court attire rules.” Silver was asked his opinion following the Cavaliers’ decision to don “I can’t breathe” warmup shirts prior to their Monday night game in Brooklyn agains the Nets. It was Derrick Rose who started this movement Saturday night in Chicago. He’s now been joined by, among others, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. That’s now three league M.V.P.s who have worn these shirts, including two of the ten greatest players of all time. Adam Silver may prefer that players make statements off the court, but the NBA Commissioner is no longer in charge.
Marc Gasol is, and is going to be, a legitimate M.V.P. candidate. Yeah, this was probably known already, but Gasol’s latest masterpiece — Memphis’ 114-105 win over Dallas — came in front of a national audience on NBA TV, so it is worth talking about here. Gasol scored 30 points on 9-14 shooting against the Mavs. He also pulled down five rebounds, dished out six assists and was his typical wonderful self on defense. Memphis is now 17-4, and Gasol is the reason why. He’s always been beloved by basketball nerds for all the “other” things he does on a court, but now his scoring is catching up to the rest of his game. He’s averaging nearly 20 points; his previous career high is 14.6. He’s getting to the free throw line more than ever. Gasol is taking seven foul shots a game (and hitting 85 percent of them), more than double what he averaged last year. On Tuesday night, he attempted 13 free throws and hit 12 of them. A go-to scorer like this is what Memphis has been missing the past few years. If Gasol continues on this path, he’ll be at the top of the M.V.P. voting at the end of the season. More importantly, his Grizz will find themselves at the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Jazz have a pulse. This is good, because Quin Snyder is not a man who should be at the helm of a team that never wins. Somehow Utah was able to knock off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday with a 100-96 home victory. The win is just the Jazz’s sixth of the year, and ended a nine game losing streak. As for what happened here, well, Gregg Popovich picked up two technical fouls late in the third quarter and was ejected. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combined for 33 points and 23 rebounds. Also, the Jazz scored on five straight possessions late in the fourth quarter to build a 97-87 lead. Amazingly, three of the Jazz’s wins have now, somehow, come against the Cavs, Spurs and Suns. Sometimes basketball can be really weird.
Play of the Night
One of the things that’s been missing from LeBron James this season is that supernatural athleticism we’re so used to seeing. Whether it’s age or a desire to give his body a break, LeBron’s really cut back on the dunks this year, which is why the above video is nice to see.
Six fun things
Russell Westbrook had an awesome put-back dunk over OJ Mayo, who somehow is just one year older than Westbrook (both were drafted in 2008, with Mayo going one spot ahead of Westbrook). Seems like Mayo is five years older than he actually is.
This sexy Tony Allen dance might be the Highlight of the Year.
Lakers 98, Kings 95 (Silver Screen and Roll recap | Sactown Royalty recap)