The numbers tell a story the Cleveland Cavaliers want to believe.
Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combined for 69 points in the wine and gold’s hard-fought 106-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon. They scored 13 of their team’s last 18 points with the quick catch-and-shoot triples and aggressive rim attacks that many believed made Love and Irving, respectively, perfect offensive running mates alongside the Cavaliers’ franchise player before last season began.
Their play in Game 1 was stellar, and no doubt prompts many league followers to wonder what might have changed last year if both stars had been healthy for the NBA Finals – not to mention what could take place if Cleveland meets the Golden State Warriors for a rematch come June.
Anyone really paying attention to what transpired at Quicken Loans Arena, though, recognized a reality that’s been all too familiar for the better part of 13 years. The Cavaliers still won’t hoist a Larry O’Brien Trophy unless LeBron James drags them to it, and even that might not be enough.
The box score suggests a ho-hum performance by the four-time MVP. A line of 22 points, six rebounds, and 11 assists on 9-of-17 shooting is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from James in the playoffs. But statistics, as always, don’t paint an accurate portrayal of his immense overall impact.
Case in point: Cleveland’s crucial run after the Pistons opened the final stanza with a mini surge.