The rumors of the Cleveland Cavaliers' demise were greatly exaggerated.
This game, on paper, looking like a case of the unstoppable force against the immovable object. Cleveland had been averaging 109.8 points per game in their last five games, while Charlotte had been giving up 81.4 points per game in the same timespan. The Hornets had a league-high ten game streak of keeping opponents under 100 points, including holding their past three opponents to 80 points or less.
The unstoppable force won in a big way, as Cleveland blew out the Hornets, 129-90.
Every Cavs player scored, led by LeBron James' 25 (in 27 minutes), J.R. Smith's 21 (all of which were via the 3-point shot), 18 from Kyrie Irving and 14 from Timofey Mozgov (the majority by doing his best DeAndre Jordan impression). The Cavs finished the night shooting 51.7 percent from the floor, 53.6 percent from 3, scored 56 points in the paint and 27 fast break points and outrebounded the Hornets 56-42. They were the better team tonight and it showed.
The loss drops the Hornets to 18-26 on the year, while the Cavaliers improved to 24-20.
The game was tied at 5 early in the first quarter, believe it or not. The Cavaliers would then just get hot shooting and a 19-6 rebounding advantage to balloon their lead to 33-13 after the first quarter. It only got worse in the second period as the Cavaliers played what had to be their best quarter of the season. They erupted for 42 points, plenty of which you will see on highlight reels on the sports highlight show of your choice, and included a LeBron steal and windmall jam with a Smith midcourt alley-oop to LeBron. There are Vines galore from this game showing the Cavs doing what many expected the team to be doing all season.
Here is the game flow from the game at halftime. It says all you need to know.
I don't know what happened on that bowling trip Cleveland took recently, but every team needs to start taking one ASAP.
Speaking of LeBron, he continues to prove to be the Hornets' kryptonite. Per Rick Bonnell:
Last time Bobcats/Hornets beat a team with LeBron: Feb. 19 2010. Since then 17 regular-season losses and four playoff losses.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 24, 2015
And that was before tonight's game. If the Hornets do make the playoffs, they need to do anything and everything in their power to make sure they avoid Cleveland for as long as possible in the postseason.
While the Cavaliers' white-hot shooting did not help, the slow start for the Hornets is what ultimately doomed them. Charlotte had been winning games recently based on their solid defense and rebounding. To be outscored by 20 in the first isn't a nail in the coffin — heck, it is almost a normal occurrence at this point. But the team had been struggling on offense recently (to put it nicely) and there was almost no way that they would've been able to defeat Cleveland in a high-scoring showdown.
Add in the gigantic rebounding disadvantage, and the Hornets were doomed for failure.
It was not all bad news. Al Jefferson finished with a double double (22 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Lance Stephenson and Bismack Biyombo continued to play off of each other and each finished with 10 points. Finally, and arguably most importantly, Charlotte is done playing against Cleveland for the season, so the only way they could face off again would be to play in the playoffs.
Now, let us forget that game ever happened. We are on to New York.