CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cavs turned back the clock Friday night.
They not only looked like their old selves, they played like it too.
While they wore orange jerseys commemorating early teams from the 1980’s and music from the decade was blared throughout the building, the Cavs returned to form, albeit against a shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers squad.
LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combined for 76 points, 28 rebounds and 10 assists between them to lead the Cavs to a 122-105 rout of the 76ers Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Coming off the road trip, I’m very surprised with the energy we had,” James, who showed up to the arena nearly 4 hours before tip and put in an extended pre-game workout, said. “We had a lot of energy.”
James led everyone with 34 points to go with 9 rebounds and 6 assists, Love pitched in 18 and 10 boards while Irving added 24 and 9 assists to close out the month 7-10. The trio combined to hit on 31 of 52 shots.
“Our on-court chemistry took a hit. Our camaraderie didn’t,” James said of the difficult month that saw them play 12 games on the road. “At the end of the day, we have to fix it (on the court).”
Whatever frustrations they were feeling, they took out on the 76ers for just their third win in 8 games.
They hope the worst is now behind them.
“Obviously, it was a tough month for us,” Love said. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll get April as another chapter for us. We’re just trying to get better.”
It was also just what the doctor ordered.
“We needed a win,” head coach Tyronn Lue said.
Before the game Lue bemoaned the inability to get a full 48 minutes from his team but he didn’t need it Friday night. With just over 8:30 left on the clock fans started to hit the exits because the Cavs already had their 48th win of the season in the bag and the starting 5 were resting comfortably on the bench after calling it a night.
As for the win itself, there was a lot for Lue to like.
Less than 2 minutes into the game Irving was hit with a flagrant-1 foul for shoving 76ers forward Justin Anderson in the back and into the Philadelphia bench. It was retaliation for what Irving felt was a cheap shot moments earlier on James by Anderson.
“Whether it was malicious or not, when I was in the play – I caught the tail end of it – I kinda saw Justin kinda lower his shoulder and knock down ‘Bron,” Irving said. “That kinda took me out of the play and I was like, ‘I hope he doesn’t get the basketball again otherwise I gotta do something. I gotta protect my brother.’
“[There’s been] A lotta late hits on ‘Bron, guys just trying to get one over on him. It’s over for that. It’s over for that so [I was just] trying to protect everybody and anybody on my team.”
Tristan Thompson pulled down 11 rebounds – 7 of them off the offensive glass – marking just the fourth time in the month he hit double figures in boards.
J.R. Smith made 4 of his 7 3-point tries to finish with 14 points.
The Cavs, who led by as many as 32 and never let their foot off of the gas, took care of the basketball turning it over just 9 times.
Cleveland’s defense crushed Philadelphia on the glass out-rebounding them 36-7 on the 76ers basket.
But it wasn’t all perfect.
Lue was not pleased with a mental lapse at the end of the first half that saw Philadelphia score 5 points in the final 2.9 seconds. Richaun Holmes his a 3 and T.J. McConnell stole the inbounds pass from Love and hit a 5-foot bank shot off the glass to trim a 23-point lead to 18 at half.
While Friday night’s rout wasn’t a sure sign that all is well with the Cavs, it was a welcomed sight if not a sigh of relief.
“I’m never a guy to look back,” James said. “No reason. Push forward. The past is the past. We’ve got to focus on the present and that’s what we’re going to do.”