There was the team’s overall response to coach Tyronn Lue’s timeout a minute and a half into the game. Lue essentially screamed at his players for lackadaisically spotting Detroit an early 6-0 lead, then watched as they went on a 30-13 run to finish the quarter.
You also couldn’t complain about Kevin Love notching yet another double-double, nor could you hate the efficient and balanced night put forth by LeBron James, who finished with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
While that’s all well and good, as is the Cavs’ 10-2 start to their title defense, nothing was as encouraging as the performance from point guard Kyrie Irving.
25 points, eleven assists. Irving only missed four shots all night, and went 3-of-4 from three point range for good measure. Last night was basically a greatest hits montage from the man they call Uncle Drew. It didn’t seem to matter what the Pistons did, he was still hurting them from all points of the floor.
While Irving’s night was a major reason Cleveland won so convincingly, it also was evidence of something that should frighten anyone not on the Cavs roster. To be frank, last night proved there’s still untapped potential within one of the best point guards in the NBA.
As talented as Irving is, there’s always been one red flag following him throughout his professional career. Despite playing a position which typically requires the willingness to be a facilitator, he’s struggled at making the teammates around him better. While most point guards focus on initiating the offense and keeping the ball moving, Irving instead shows more of a score-first focus than some would like.
This was obviously a necessity back when he was the Cavs’ lone offensive threat. However, everyone expected this to change once James returned in 2014. As we all know, it didn’t exactly work out that way.
James felt the need to critique Irving early in their first season together, and seemed to ride him all the way into last year as well. Irving made adjustments some nights, while other times James took the ball and ran the offense on his own.
Of course, these are things you don’t complain about when your team wins the NBA Championship as Cleveland did last June. As long as the Cavs play well, nobody will be calling out Irving for his passing apprehension.
At the same time, when you see a game like last night’s, you realize how much more dangerous Irving can potentially be. Just look at how dumbfounded Detroit seemed in trying to stop him.
If the Pistons cut off the lanes, Irving hurt them from distance. If they tightened their defense, he just dribbled around would-be defenders en route to highlight reel layups. Too much focus on Irving in general just resulted in his getting his teammates on the board.
This is a scary scenario for opponents in general. Factor in the realization that keying in on Irving means you leave guys like James and Love open and, well, that’s a recipe for a lopsided score like what we saw last night.
There’s always the chance things go back to normal for him come Wednesday’s bout with the Portland Trail Blazers. If that’s the case, so be it. The Cavs are still the defending champs, so it’s tough to believe they’d be worse off as a result.
At the same time, though you rarely see a double-digit number in his assist column, Irving could become a frighteningly great player if he starts making it a more common occurrence. Everyone already knows how much of a threat he is to score. If he begins to increase his focus on running the offense and facilitating, the Cavs become an even better team than they already are.
Keep that in mind when you realize we’re talking about one of the best point guards in the game who happens to be playing for the reigning champions.