There has been a lot of talk about Kevin Love and how he's not best buddies with LeBron James and how he doesn't "fit in" with Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers just keep beating the hell out of everybody. Cleveland went into Memphis and smacked around the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, coming away with a 111-89 victory.
And wouldn't you know it, but it was Kevin Love who shined. Love finished the game with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while shooting 10-of-13 from the field and 2-of-4 from three. He also recorded two blocks and a steal. The only real blemish on his scorecard were the five turnovers, but those can be excused on this night.
Love didn't just play the role of the stretch 4 against the big Grizzlies' front line, as he also went to work in the paint. Here's his shot chart for the game:
That's a nice little balance for Love, who sometimes finds himself on the perimeter a bit too often for his liking. He's taking about 37 percent of his shots from that zone closest to the basket on the season(and making those shots at below league-average rate), but over 46 percent of his shot attempts in this game were from that zone, and he made 5-of-6. He's at his best when he's working both inside and out, and he had both aspects of his game going against Memphis.
The rest of the Cavaliers' starting lineup all contributed as well, with each member scoring in double figures. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 24 points, while James had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Timofey Mozgov added 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and J.R. Smith had 13 points in the impressive road win, which was part of a historic night in the NBA:
NBA road teams went 12-1 today -- the .923 winning percentage is the best for a single day in NBA history- min. 10 games (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 26, 2015
For all the talk about Love not fitting in, the Cavaliers' current starting lineup has been a juggernaut. In 412 minutes this season, Cleveland's starters have an offensive rating just under 117, and they've outscored opponents by over 20 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. That's the best unit in the league that has played at least 400 minutes together.
The Cavaliers' front office deserves a ton of credit for the shrewd moves it made to improve the roster. Mozgov and Iman Shumpert have the best net ratings on the team. Smith is the extra shooter Cleveland needed, and he has been shooting the lights out from three after a rough start to the year in New York.
Sure, there are still questions about Love in the fourth quarter. And sure, there's no guarantee he sticks around, although it would be a smart move if he wants perennial title contention during his prime.
But those question marks aren't stopping the Cavaliers from being a great team right now, and that's exactly what they are. Cleveland has been dominant since James returned from those injuries in January (28-7), and grabbing the No. 2 seed looks inevitable. Then the games will really matter, and we'll see just what this squad can accomplish.
SB Nation presents: Russell Westbrook’s most ridiculous highlights
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Dwight Howard is back: Howard made his long-awaited return against the Pelicans after missing 26 games with a knee injury. Howard was on a 16-minute limit and didn't do all that much, notching four points, seven rebounds and four fouls. Houston fell behind by 15 points after the first quarter, but James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas helped lead the Rockets back to a 95-93 win. Harden finished with 25 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, while Ariza and Motiejunas combined for 43 points on 19-of-29 shooting. Although Howard was limited, it's still a plus for Houston that he's back for the stretch run, and he should be back up to speed in no time. Meanwhile, this was a rough loss for New Orleans, who blew a chance to gain a game on Oklahoma City ...
... because the Spurs went all Spurs on the Thunder: Russell Westbrook and the Thunder have been rolling, and the Spurs lost in Dallas on Tuesday night. But, angry and focused Spurs are the best Spurs, and San Antonio laid a royal whoopin' on Oklahoma City. The Spurs came away with a 130-91 victory, shooting 58.0 percent overall and 13-of-21 from three. Tony Parker badly outplayed Westbrook, notching 21 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Westbrook started hot by scoring 14 points in the first quarter, but he only had two points the rest of the way. Nine different Spurs hit three-pointers, including one unlikely player. (You'll find out who it is later.) Simply put, this was a vintage Spurs performance.
Things happened in the East playoff race: The Raptors clinched a playoff berth despite giving up 61 percent shooting in a 116-103 loss to Chicago. Toronto actually led by five points going into the fourth quarter, but the porous defense allowed 39 points in the final frame. Out in Boston, the Heat avoided another fourth-quarter collapse (although they tried to collapse) in a 93-86 win over the Celtics without Dwyane Wade. Miami created a bit of separation for the No. 7 seed (two-game lead), and Boston is now tied for the No. 8 seed with Indiana because the Pacers beat the slumping Wizards 103-101 on a George Hill layup in the final seconds. Washington has lost four straight games, Bradley Beal is hurt again and Randy Wittman isn't having a good time. And finally, the Nets and Hornets are both a half-game back of the No. 8 seed after Brooklyn beat Charlotte, 91-88.
Play of the Night
The Spurs beat the Thunder so bad that Tim Duncan was poppin' treys and winning money because of it.
7 fun things
DeMar DeRozan had two gaffes in the Raptors' loss to the Bulls, missing a dunk and then throwing a pass to Joakim Noah on Chicago's bench.
Bulls 116, Raptors 103 (Blog a Bull recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Nets 91, Hornets 88 (NetsDaily recap | At The Hive recap)
Clippers 111, Knicks 80 (Clips Nation recap | Posting and Toasting recap)
Hawks 95, Magic 83 (Peachtree Hoops recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)
Pacers 103, Wizards 101 (Indy Cornrows recap | Bullets Forever recap)
Heat 93, Celtics 86 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | CelticsBlog recap)
Cavaliers 111, Grizzlies 89 (Fear The Sword recap | Grizzly Bear Blues recap)
Rockets 95, Pelicans 93 (The Dream Shake recap | The Bird Writes Recap)
76ers 99, Nuggets 85 (Liberty Ballers recap | Denver Stiffs recap)
Trail Blazers 92, Jazz 89 (Blazer's Edge recap | SLC Dunk recap)
Lakers 101, Timberwolves 99 (OT) (Silver Screen and Roll recap | Canis Hoopus recap)
Spurs 130, Thunder 91 (Pounding The Rock recap | Welcome to Loud City recap)
Kings 108, Suns 99 (Sactown Royalty recap | Bright Side Of The Sun)