Cavs spoil Paul Pierce's jersey retirement ceremony as Celtics clank from deep
When the Cleveland Cavaliers sort of broke the Internet when it pulled the trigger in a blockbuster deal that traded 6 players from Cleveland, not everyone was convinced that the trade was going to benefit the Cavs. Why?
They traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Dwayne Wade, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose for Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, and Rodney Hood. Despite his struggles, Isaiah Thomas WAS among the league's most explosive scorers last season with the Boston Celtics. Dwayne Wade is back with the Miami Heat where he enjoyed the best years of his career. And don't forget that Derrick Rose was a former league MVP. So the Cavs lost a lot of firepowers. But they also got rid of some of their problems and received players who can help them solve more of their problems.
On the day the Boston Celtics retired the #34 of long-time Celtic and former Finals MVP, Paul Pierce, the Cleveland Cavaliers received notable contributions from every player, most especially from their new recruits as the Cavs nailed their 3rd straight win after beating Kyrie Irving's Celtics, 121-99. And this time, LeBron James didn't have to play like an MVP because he got reinforcements. A lot of them.
What worked well for Tyronn Lue and the rest of the third-seeded Cavs? Below are the numbers:
The newbies played well
With LeBron James limited to 24 points on 9 for 20 field goal shooting, Jordan Clarkson and the rest of the new guys wasted no time as they provided the additional spark- something that was expected from them in the first place. Clarkson, one of the league's best sixth men, had 17 points on 7 for 11 shooting while playing for 23 minutes off the bench. Rodney Hood chipped in 15 points while George Hill added 12 points as a starter. Larry Nance Jr. had 5 points too. Give them the time and opportunity, these new players will blend well into Tyronn Lue's system and when they do, the Cavs will be much better than they were before they made the trade.
One of the obvious problems that Cleveland was trying to solve was their inability to limit their opponents' production and it appeared that they are starting to figure things out on the defensive end against Boston. To begin with, teams who are playing against the Cavs are averaging 109 points per game which put Cleveland tied with the Orlando Magic at the 27th spot in that department.
The good news is, the Cavs were able to hold the Celtics to only 99 points while also limiting the Celtics' field goal percentage to 40% including 26% from the three-point line. They also limited Boston to 9 fast break points and 34 points in the shaded area. Not the best defensive effort but it's a good start.
The scenario of the Cavs of catching up the Celtics and eventually, take the top seed in the East away from the Toronto Raptors is definitely not impossible just yet considering the fact that the Cavs are only 6 games down behind the top team in their conference. If they can keep getting contributions from everybody and defend well especially against the elite teams, we might actually see the real Cleveland Cavaliers before the playoffs start.