What a difference a week makes. On March 7, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to an injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies team that was missing four starters thanks to a dismal effort on both ends of the court. But after a complete dismantling of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday -- their third win in a row -- the Cavaliers look ready to coast through the Eastern Conference again.
Many teams struggle in a Sunday matinee game after a night out in Los Angeles -- see the Golden State Warriors against the Lakers a week ago -- but the Cavaliers turned in one of their best performances this season on their way to a 114-90 win over the Clippers. The Cavaliers dominated behind 27 points, six rebounds and five assists from LeBon James and lights out shooting from beyond the arc. Cleveland was 18-of-37 from deep, with J.R. Smith and Channing Frye contributing five each.
Chris Paul had 17 points and 10 assists in the loss, but the Clippers were no match for the hot-shooting Cavaliers.
When the Cavaliers are hitting their shots like they were on Sunday, there's not much any team can do. And with Frye finding a spot in the Cavaliers offense, it looks like the Cavaliers are going to rely even more on the three-point shot in the season's home stretch.
It's a small sample, but the Cavaliers have shot 38.7 threes per game over their last three games -- they're averaging 28.6 per game this season. They've made 15.7 per game (40.5 percent) in that three-game stretch, and the offense is firing on all cylinders because of it.
Frye's sharpshooting has been a boon for the Cavaliers as of late. He isn't getting a ton of minutes, but he's a nice change of pace for the Cavaliers when they want to stretch the offense off the bench instead of relying on Timofey Mozgov. Frye is 10-of-14 from deep over the past two games and is hitting 40 percent from deep this season compared to Kevin Love, who's making 34.8 percent. Since Tyronn Lue took over as head coach the Cavaliers have wanted to be a fast-paced team that was going to utilize Love's ability to shoot. Frye gives them a better option to stretch the court.
It's not just three-point shooting that's helping the surging offense -- Kyrie Irving's play has a lot to do with it. Irving wasn't great from deep against the Clippers -- he was only 2-of-7 -- but his ability to attack makes up for poor shooting.
Irving is averaging 24.8 points and six assists per game in March, ratcheting up his offense with as the season progresses.
The Cavaliers defense has had its issues, but their offense is making up for it. The Cavaliers are reacting to the Warriors, and it appears they're going to try to go toe to toe with one of the most prolific offenses in NBA history.
3 other things
The Atlanta Hawks defense is carrying them
Not everyone is gearing up to run with the Warriors -- the Hawks are tightening up their defense. They coasted to a 104-75 win over the Pacers on Sunday thanks to a staunch defense that has the Hawks looking more and more like an elite team in the East. Last season the Hawks were relying on a fast-paced offense and sharp shooting from deep, but this year the Hawks have the second-best defensive rating in the NBA, giving up 98.7 points per 100 possessions. They've won seven of nine games and are starting to look like a very tough out in the playoffs. If the season ended today the Hawks would be the No. 6 seed in the East, facing the Boston Celtics. But They're only 1.5 games behind the Celtics for the three seed. There's a logjam in the Eastern Conference standings, but one thing is for certain: facing the tough Hawks defense in the first round is a tough draw.
Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony's final battle ended up being pretty fun
It was an ugly game in Los Angeles on Sunday night -- The Lakers scored 11 points in the first quarter, but the New York Knicks only scored 18 -- until the final four minutes. The Lakers trailed by as many as 16 in the second half, but stormed back to grab a lead in the final five minutes -- and they made the run without Bryant. But down the stretch, he and Anthony traded buckets before Jose Calderon hit the game winner with 0.2 seconds left on one of the most broken plays in the history of game-winning plays ever.
The 90-87 win moved the Knicks to 28-40 as the Lakers dropped to 14-53. Anthony ended with 26 points and 12 rebounds and Bryant had 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. It might not have been exactly the way Bryant and Carmelo Anthony's last game was supposed to play out, but it ended up being entertaining.
DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings are a disaster
The Kings lost to the Utah Jazz 108-99, and Cousins was extremely unhappy post game.
"That wasn't a suspension from the organization. That was a suspension from the head coach," Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 14, 2016
Nothing has gone smoothly for the Kings this season. Cousins is putting up numbers, but it appears the situation in Sacramento is going to get worse before it gets better.
Play of the night
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not of this earth. On this one-man fast break he picks up his dribble at the three-point line, pass-fakes Shane Larkin into another universe and then throws down a thunderous dunk with ease. He wasn't only throwing down highlight-reel plays, he also had his fourth triple-double in his last 11 games with 28 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.