The Cleveland Cavaliers blitzed the Indiana Pacers 109-97 Saturday night, earning their third straight win and climbing over the .500 mark (8-7) for just the second time this season.
But if you really want to know how the tide might be turning for LeBron James and crew consider that the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are now preaching the virtues of defense. The Cavs held the Pacers to just 40 percent shooting and Irving and Love had as much to do with as anyone. Over the course of their streak, the team has now held opponents to an average of 86 points on just 40 percent shooting.
“Going into my fourth year, it was just a conscious effort to have a better focus level on that end,” said Irving, who harassed Indiana point guards Donald Sloan and C.J. Watson into a combined 3-for-14 shooting night. “It starts with that, and no matter who we’re playing against, guys are trying to stop me and I got to try to stop other guys. It’s just the attitude I have every single night.”
As for Love, Cavs coach David Blatt told ESPN “in general, I would like to say, I think Kevin Love is playing the best defense of his career so far. He can get better like all of us can, but he’s doing a good job. He’s buying into the system, into the principles, and he needs to continue to do that and we need to continue to involve him in the way that we are.”
Through it all, James continues to preach to his young and impressionable teammates that effort is the key to everything.
“Just taking pride of it,” he said of the team playing better defense. “Guys are taking their individual tasks very high, and that’s helped us.”
In the case of Irving, the All-Star guard also feels his maturing nature is also proving to pay dividends.
“My first three years, it was just making excuses of offensive burden and all this other stuff, and at the end of the day I just have to do it for the greater good of our team,” he said.[Photo Credit: Keith Allison]