CLEVELAND — It was exactly the efficient, proficient and professional kind of performance Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was seeking against the worst team in the NBA.
Cleveland played so well in an extremely convincing 122-95 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena that the game quickly became boring, which was actually exciting to Scott.
That it came one game after a thrilling and emotional triumph over the talented Oklahoma City Thunder was even better news for the Cavs, who finally came out with drive, focus and determination against a bottom-tier team.
“I was curious to see if we had learned from our past mistakes and grown as a basketball team,” Scott said. “We definitely have. It’s a matter now of keeping it going.”
The Cavs (15-34), who began the night tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the league, have played fairly well against quality opponents, home and road, only to frequently stink up The Q against lesser teams.
That wasn’t the case against the NBA-worst Bobcats (11-37), who were concluding a five-game road trip and put up no resistance while giving up 100 points and falling behind by 33 through three periods.
“We’ve got to have that fear of losing in our mind,” Scott said before the game. “We have to come out and play hard for 48 minutes.”
Mission accomplished, as the Cavs recorded their largest margin of victory since beating Boston 124-95 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 7, 2010, which turned out to be LeBron James’ last win in a Cleveland uniform.
It was the Cavs’ largest regular-season win since downing New York 124-93 at The Q on March 1, 2010, and their most points since beating the Los Angeles Clippers 126-119 in overtime on Feb. 11, 2011, to end their NBA-record 26-game losing streak.
Cleveland also had season bests in field-goal percentage (.565), assists (33), turnovers (six) and first-half points (65), while Charlotte’s starters — Jeffery Taylor, Jeff Adrien, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker — combined for 33 points.
“We were clicking on both ends of the floor,” said point guard Kyrie Irving, who had a game-high 22 points and made all five of his 3-point attempts in 28 minutes. “That’s what we need on a consistent basis.”
The Cavs were never in danger of losing this one, as they went on a 10-1 run to go up 23-14 in the first period and never looked back.
A 14-0 spurt that concluded with seven straight points by Tristan Thompson made it 50-29 in the second quarter, and that run ballooned to 27-6 and a 63-35 lead late in the first half.
At halftime, Cleveland was up 65-41 and hitting a sizzling .622 from the field (28-for-45), with Thompson, Irving and Dion Waiters having accounted for 39 points on 17-for-23 shooting.
Thompson, who finished with 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes, had 13 points in the second period, when he went 5-for-5 from the field.
Irving finished 8-for-12 from the field, while Waiters made nine of his first 11 attempts before tailing off and finishing with 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting in 24 minutes.
“Coach challenged us,” Thompson said. “We had a big win against Oklahoma City. He told us simply, ‘If we don’t get this one, you can scratch that.’”
That was never an issue. Toss in 16 points in 23 minutes from Wayne Ellington and 11 points and 10 boards in 19 minutes from Marreese Speights, and it was a different kind of night at The Q, as Irving and the rest of the starters watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench.
“I think that was the first time all season,” Irving said of not playing in the fourth. “The only other time I rested was against Detroit (on Friday) and we were losing. It felt good to be on the other end.”
If the Cavs can come anywhere close to matching their effort Friday when ailing Orlando (14-35) comes to town with an 11-game losing streak, they should have a three-game winning streak heading into a Saturday home game with Denver.
“No doubt,” Irving said when asked if the team could maintain its intensity. “We’re making strides in the right direction. It feels good.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.