LeBron James’ triple-double wasn’t enough as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Two things are clear from last night — the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t as good as they were last year and the Brooklyn Nets aren’t as bad as they were last year. Brooklyn erased a nine-point fourth quarter deficit (after blowing a lead as large as 14) to stun the Cavs 112-107 in the Barclays Center.
Aside from a couple of runs made here and there by each team, the game was relatively tight from start to finish. It featured 19 lead changes and 10 ties. LeBron James had the stat line of the night after throwing up 29 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, and he finished just two turnovers shy of a quadruple-double (more on that later). Kyle Korver chipped in with 22, and Jeff Green added 18; Kevin Love had 15 on 4-of-13 shooting, and Cleveland was without Dwyane Wade (knee) and Derrick Rose (ankle). For Brooklyn, they got a tremendous all-around effort.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who just last year was in training camp with the Windy City Bulls, led the way with 22 points, including a 31-foot bomb with 43 seconds left that gave the Nets a 106-104 lead. He then assisted on the following play which put Brooklyn up four. The other players who made vital contributions are as follows:
- Allen Crabbe (19 points)
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (19 points, six rebounds, three blocks)
- DeMarre Carroll (18 points, seven rebounds, four steals)
- Joe Harris (11 points)
- Caris LeVert (10 points, four assists).
It was a thrilling game to watch, and there is a bunch to take away from both teams, starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers
Turnovers Still Aren’t An Ingredient In Winning
It’s tough to win a basketball game when you’re routinely giving the ball to the other team. All that does is create easy points for one team and frustrates the other. Cleveland left Brooklyn after committing 21 turnovers that generated 24 points for the Nets. James was responsible for eight and Love had six of his own. As the game progressed, LeBron became more and more expressive of his annoyance with himself and his team, even though he’d never come out and say that. There were three or four instances where James threw a pass that bounced off the hands of one of his teammates, and he’s the one who got credited with the turnover.
That shows that the rest of the team wasn’t fully engaged, and the conspiracy theorist in me wants to think that some of the guys didn’t expect the Nets to be as competitive as they were. I do, however, want to give credit to Brooklyn’s defense. They were acutely aware of what was happening and, for the most part, were a well-oiled machine.
LeBron Isn’t Superhuman Enough To Do It All By Himself
We’ve known this. And it’s not an indictment on LeBron. There is no player in the history of the NBA who can win when he’s the lone star on the team. Not LeBron, not Michael Jordan, not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Cleveland will get better once their health returns to normal. There were without Wade and Rose as I alluded to earlier, but Isaiah Thomas is also sidelined, and this team is going to be significantly different and more dynamic once he returns. With that said, last night’s squad didn’t help themselves.
James can put up 29-13-10 in his sleep, but the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack for however long the Cavs are depleted. Both Korver and Green are excluded from this conversation because they showed up last night and it was both very shocking and very entertaining. I’m instead going to direct the spotlight to Jae Crowder and Kevin Love, who combined for 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Through the five games, Love is somehow attempting fewer shots on average than last year, and that’s just absolutely mind-boggling because he’s now the bona fide second-option. Against the Nets, he took 13. My issue isn’t him going 4-of-13. It’s instead how he’s not around 17 or 18 shots a night at this juncture. That same beef applies to Crowder.
He took just three shots last night — three! That’s the same output as Jose Calderon. It’s unacceptable for someone who’s shown us he can be more than capable on the offensive end.
This Brooklyn Nets Team Isn’t Like Years Past
The Nets have spent the better part of the last few years being the NBA’s worst team. It wasn’t fun to watch them. I dreaded putting on my TV knowing that the league’s Island of Misfit Toys was taking the court and a blowout was likely. Things began to shape up last season with Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks having a plan for the team, and optimism rose after the team acquired Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and D’Angelo Russell, who didn’t play last night. They’ve also cultivated talent with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert and a few others.
This Nets team has sprinted out of the gate because they have an identity and stick to it. Against the Cavs, they played grittily and scraped on almost every possession, and the outside shot was huge for them. Not only did Dinwiddie bury the go-ahead triple, but the Nets also connected on 17-of-46 threes by the end of the night. Coupling a potent offense with active defense helps make up for the talent disparity between the two.
Spencer Dinwiddie Has Finally Found A Home
I’m elated that Dinwiddie has made the most of the opportunity given. Brooklyn gave him a legitimate chance last season and elected to keep him over Yogi Ferrell, which upset a lot of fans because Ferrell had played well and then balled out once he went to the Dallas Mavericks. Dinwiddie produced steadily, but never wowed anyone.
This season is still young, but Dinwiddie’s averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds, which would be the best year of his career by far. He capable of starting at point guard during Jeremy Lin’s absence, but he also doesn’t have an issue coming off of the bench.
Going forward, I see Dinwiddie getting more minutes because the performance against Cleveland was just spectacular. I also anticipate Atkinson having him play down the stretch more because of his size, length and IQ; Dinwiddie’s a solid facilitator who doesn’t try to do too much and also has an excellent grip on the game. For a young team, that’s invaluable.
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