Wrap-Up -- Tyronn Lue had to wait one game before his new up-tempo offense took hold and gave the 38-year-old head coach with his first career win – but it was worth the wait.
The Cavaliers played with an urgency that was missing in Lue’s debut on Saturday night, racing past the Timberwolves early in the fourth quarter and hanging on through a high-scoring final period for the 114-107 victory over the scrappy Timberwolves on Monday night at The Q.
After Saturday night’s loss to the Bulls, Lue maintained that his team had to get in better shape in order to run his offensive system. Monday night’s contest provided them some on-the-job training for exactly that, with the Wine and Gold notching 59 points on 60 percent shooting in the first half. At different points throughout the night, players asked out of the game, but the five on the floor continued to push the pace.
One Cavalier whose motor hasn’t stopped since he made the squad as an undrafted free agent two summers ago was Matthew Dellavedova – who celebrated Australia Night at The Q in style, coming off Cleveland’s bench to finish with 18 points, going an even 6-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc – adding seven assists, four boards and a steal.
The Cavs needed everything they could get from the bench going up against an inspired young Timberwolves team that relies on its reserves more than any other team in the NBA. Minnesota’s Zach LaVine led their second unit with 21 points and Sam Mitchell’s squad refused to allow the Cavaliers to celebrate his counterpart’s first win a moment early.
Cleveland flirted with blowing the game open early in the fourth – opening up a 15-point edge on Iman Shumpert’s triple with 10:25 to play. But impressive rookie big man Karl-Anthony Towns keyed a 16-4 run that got the T-Wolves to within three midway through the period.
LeBron James scores 25 points and dishes out nine assists as the Cavaliers drop the Timberwolves at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers answered back, and when the man of the hour – Matthew Dellavedova – drilled his fourth trey of the night, they extended their edge back to a baker’s dozen. But Minnesota wouldn’t go down easy and LaVine’s and-1 with 16.5 remaining in regulation got the Wolves back to within three, 110-107.
But Delly and LeBron James hit two sets of free throws in the closing moments to seal the deal.
LeBron led the Cavaliers with 25 points, going 11-of-15 from the floor – adding a team-high nine assists to go with four boards, a steal and a blocked shot.
Tristan Thompson bounced back from a rough outing on Saturday to tally his 11th double-double of the season as he rejoined the starting lineup on Monday – finishing with 19 points and a game-high 12 boards, going 8-of-10 from the floor in the win.
Kyrie Irving finished one rebound shy of his career-high in rebounds – grabbing nine boards to go with 17 points and four helpers. Kevin Love and J.R. Smith netted 11 points apiece as all five Cavalier starters registered double-figures, the fifth time they’ve done so this season.
The Wine and Gold shot 51 percent on the night and canned 11 treys – hitting double-digit three-pointers for the 23rd time this year. They topped the T-Wolves on the boards, 43-38, resulting in a 20-8 advantage in second-half scoring.
Turning Point -- Ending quarters is critical in the NBA and, after going back-and-forth with the young Wolves, got themselves some breathing room at the end of the third period.
Midway through the third, Towns drilled a 15-footer to put Minnesota up a point, 68-67. But LeBron gave Cleveland the lead back on the very next possession, drilling his lone triple of the night. Delly’s trey two possessions later put Cleveland up five and keyed a 16-3 that was capped by Kyrie Irving whose three-pointer with 26 seconds remaining in the period put the Wine and Gold up a dozen.
By the Numbers – .929 … Cavaliers’ winning percentage against Western Conference foes over the last 14 games at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland is 25-6 against the West over their last 31 meetings, including an 11-5 mark this season.
Quotable – Coach Tyronn Lue, on the squad’s condition and his intention to increase the pace …
”I think we play the second-slowest in the league as far as pace-wise. The vision that I have for this team, I think we have to play faster. I think we have to utilize Kyrie and LeBron’s one-on-one ability in transition to open the floor more and run in more drags. We just haven’t been accustomed to playing that way. I have to do a better job of getting us in better shape.”
Up Next – After Monday night’s win over the Wolves to sweep the season series, the Wine and Gold wrap up the four-game homestand on Wednesday night, trying to take two against another Western Conference foe – the struggling Suns, who’ve dropped 15 of their last 17 games as of Monday. The Cavs get back on the road for a Friday night matchup with the Pistons in Motown before returning to The Q for a monster rematch with the Spurs in an 8:30 p.m. national TV start.