With their “Big Three” of small forward LeBron James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love capable of putting up points from anywhere on the floor, the Cleveland Cavaliers have long been considered an offensive-minded team.
But when shots do not fall, the Cavaliers have fed off their defense. And they used that defensive effort to stem the time of offensive issues and claim a 112-108 come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
“You can’t let offense dictate your defense,” James said. “We started 0-14 from the field, but we had great looks.
“We just kept saying in the timeouts, ‘They’re great looks. Just keep taking them, but we’ve got to keep defending. The ball will go in for us.’ Because we move the ball and guys take great shots, we were able to weather their storm. That’s a pretty good up-and-coming team.”
The Cavaliers missed their first 14 looks at the basket and made only seven of their 27 shots in the first quarter and trailed from the start of the game until Irving gave the team an 85-84 lead with a driving layup with 9:22 to play in regulation.
“You just try to keep the defense off-balance, and when you find a set that’s working for you, you want to milk it as much as you can, and our guys did a great job knocking down shots in the second half,” James said. “I just tried to put the ball where it needed to be for guys to catch and finish or catch and fire.”
Although the defense carried the load for the Cavaliers last Sunday, when time called for it, Irving stepped up at the perfect time. Irving sunk seven of his 10 shots and five of his three-point attempts on the way to a 19-point fourth quarter in the victory over the 76ers.
“It’s a 48-minute game,” James said. “The game is never won in one quarter or two quarters. You’ve got to just continue to stay positive and you’ve got to get stops. You’ve got to do the things you do offensively and defensively to try to weather the storm.”