The Cavs were supposed to win tonight. Against a T’Wolves team coming off a thriller against New York last night, at home, the Cavs predictably looked far more fresh and crisp for three quarters against the Timberwolves. They almost blew it though, as the results ended up with just a one-point victory thanks to a huge fourth-quarter comeback by Minnesota.
The Cavaliers simply dominated the Timberwolves inside in the first half. It was amazing. The Timberwolves finished with just 10 points in the paint and 12 rebounds in the first half, as Kevin Love was smothered by Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs did a fantastic job of defending the T’Wolves’ pick-and-roll game. Without that, Minnesota was forced to mostly attempt to rely on their mid-range game, which was simply gross. Kevin Martin went 5-10 in the first half for a team-leading 16 points, but Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, and Derrick Williams went a combined 1-9 from the field, as the Timberwolves missed all but one of their 13 shots from the left wing.
Meanwhile, the first half offense from the Cavs revolved around the frontcourt, who came out on fire. Earl Clark, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao went a combined 11-13 from the field, with Varejao’s 10 points leading the charge against an exhausted-looking T’Wolves frontcourt. Their effort was bolstered by a flurry from C.J. Miles in the second quarter. Miles was 5-6 for 12 points, and added 2 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block in a tremendous all-around effort, as the Cavs extended a 31-23 first quarter lead to a comfortable 55-36 cushion at the end of the first half.
Now last year, here’s where we all were constantly scared of a patented Byron Scott collapse. Big lead on a tired team with a ton of weapons was a recipe for terror last season, made most notable by the 27-point comeback by the Heat on that infamous night. In the third quarter, however, we saw the Cavs continue to play to their strengths and capitalize on Minnesota’s exhaustion. The starters came right back out and continued to smother Minnesota’s offense. The third quarter was mostly notable for Thompson’s continued dominance of Kevin Love on the boards, and the Cavs continuing to frustrate the Timberwolves’ guards defensively, as Rubio and Martin combined to go 1-10 from the floor in the quarter. The Timberwolves did chip into the lead through some solid rebounding from Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, but the game went into the final stanza still seemingly out of reach, a 76-61 affair.
The fourth quarter? That was a different story. With 5:05 left in the game, the Cavs had a 16-point lead. Over the remainder of the game, that became a one-point effort. The culprits? The Wolves’ offense was led by Corey Brewer down the stretch, who hit three of his five baskets in the fourth, and Derrick Williams, who finished with 13 points on the night. The Cavs also weren’t helped by an absolute comedy of errors on offense, as Kyrie and Dion continually turned the ball over and the team chucked a ton of bad shots. Kyrie had 9 turnovers for the game, and most of them came during that stretch. The Wolves trimmed the lead all the way down to that one-point margin, and Kyrie missed a floater to give the Wolves one last chance with 11 seconds left. Luckily, Minnesota made a strange call to run a PNR with J.J. Barea, and Barea nearly coughed the ball up before the ball found its way to Kevin Love, who missed what would have been the game-winner. Thus, a previously dominant game became a 93-92 squeaker.
-The Cavs leading scorer was C.J. Miles, who did a little bit of everything in his 19 minutes of game action. Miles finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks, and looked like the only competent scorer off the bench for the Cavs.
-Kyrie didn’t look that strong tonight, as his 9 turnovers and late game struggles took away from a solid first half. He finished with 15/8/6, but most of that came in the first half.
-Andrew Bynum continues to increase his minutes, and continued to flash what we’ve seen all season: Great defensive effort, as he finished with 3 blocks in 19 minutes, but a lot of struggles on the offensive end.
-Finally, it must be said that Tristan Thompson played 37 minutes, and spent most of it harrassing Kevin Love with a lot of success. Love finished with 17 points on 8-20 shooting, and didn’t look good at all in the first half. Even though he still had 13 rebounds, Thompson had 11 of his own, and still managed 12 points, even though he had to constantly deal with Love and Dante Cunningham hounding him. This was Thompson’s worst game of the season so far statistically, but he still looked pretty solid against Love.