July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Offense comes easy for Cavs

By RICK NOLANDAssistant Sports Editor

CLEVELAND – Another night, another blowout and another fourth quarter off for LeBron James.

The Cavaliers continued playing exceptional basketball Friday at Quicken Loans Arena, dispatching the Golden State Warriors 112-97 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates.

Cleveland upped its record to 13-3 overall, the best start in franchise history, won for the 12th time in its last 13 games and improved to 9-0 at The Q, which ties for the best home start in team history.

“We’re playing great basketball right now,” said James, who led the Cavaliers with 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists despite not playing in the fourth quarter for the third straight game. “We’re just going out and executing the game plan, whatever it is.”

For the first time in four games, the Cavaliers were actually behind at one point. Not only were they behind, four minutes into the game the Warriors (5-11) were on pace to go 84-of-84 from the field and score 204 points.

Golden State made seven straight shots in jumping to a 17-7 lead with eight minutes to go in the first period, but the Cavaliers regrouped in impressive fashion and led by 26 at the end of three periods.

Cleveland, which will play its fourth game in five nights tonight in Milwaukee, won 119-101 Tuesday in New York and 117-82 Wednesday at home against Oklahoma City. Toss in a 110-96 victory over Atlanta a week ago and the Cavaliers’ average margin of victory in their current four-game winning streak has been 20.5 points. In that stretch, they are averaging 114.5 points.

“We’re knocking teams down like they’re not even there,” James said.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas matched James’ 9-of-13 shooting against the Warriors to put up a season-high 21 points in just 19 minutes, giving him an amazing 38 points in 33 minutes over the last two games.

The Cavaliers also got 16 points apiece from Mo Williams and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, who has been a garbage time specialist the last two games. Delonte West had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and held Stephen Jackson to 2-of-11 shooting, Wally Szczerbiak had nine points and a season-high nine rebounds and Ben Wallace added nine boards.

Just as important, the Cavaliers held the Warriors to 22-of-70 shooting after the first 6:44 of the game.

“I like how we’re winning,” Wallace said. “We’re doing it at the defensive end. That’s what is going to help us get over the hump.

“We’re having so much fun on defense, the offense is just coming easy. It makes for exciting basketball.”

After its 7-of-7 start, Golden State went on to make 11 of its first 13 attempts – “That turkey kind of slowed us down,” Williams said – before Cleveland tightened up on the quick-trigger, jump-shooting Warriors. That resulted in Golden State going 12-of-48 from the field from the 5:16 mark of the first period through the end of the third quarter.

“They play a funky style of basketball that we’re not quite used to,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “Because of that, it can give us a ton of problems, but in the third quarter we did a much better job.”

The Warriors led 47-44 with four minutes to go in the first half, but by the time the third quarter ended, the Cavaliers had gone on a 50-21 run to grab a 94-68 lead. Included was a 36-16 advantage in the third period.

“We didn’t let the game get out of hand and turn into a rat race,” Brown said. “I applaud our guys for trying to play the right way.”

As a result, the Cavaliers have won four straight games by at least 14 points for the first time since March 13-18, 1990. Cleveland has led by at least 28 points in each of those contests.

Had Darnell Jackson gotten on the board, the Cavaliers also would have had everyone in uniform break into the scoring column for the third straight game.

“It’s been great,” Williams said. “(The starters) have been chillin’ in the fourth quarter and not doin’ nothin’.”

Noland may be reached at rickn@ohio.net or 330-721-4061.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.