Cleveland Cavaliers: Team Effort with Luol Deng’s Debut, Impressive
In the first game of a long West Coast trip, the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised past the struggling Utah Jazz, 113-102. The victory was the Cavs’ second blowout in as many games, after blowing out the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night in Cleveland. The newest member of the Cavs, Luol Deng, acquired in a trade that sent Andrew Bynum and draft picks to the Chicago Bulls, played just 21 minutes in his debut. The Cavs have set a 30 minute restriction on Deng due to an achilles injury he suffered while still a member of the Bulls. Due to the game being decided fairly early, Deng sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Deng got off to a bit of a slow start, probably because he was still trying to find his rhythm with his new team. He finished the first quarter with four points and one rebound, hitting two of his first three shot attempts. His first basket with the Cavaliers came at the 11-minute mark in the first quarter when Anderson Varejao found him cutting to the basket and hit him with an easy pass for a layup. Possibly his best offensive play of the night came with 9:35 remaining in the first quarter, hitting a fade-away jumper from the elbow.
Deng didn’t get a lot of playing time in the second quarter, but did get two free throw attempts, hitting both of them to give him six points in the first half.
The third quarter was a big one for the Cavaliers. Trailing at halftime, they were able to take the lead and virtually end the game before the fourth quarter even started by exploding for 39 points in the third quarter. Star point guard Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his 25 points in the third quarter, and Deng made his presence felt on the defensive end. He made a nice play in the post, denying an entry pass and stealing it away. He would then make a transition jumper to give him ten points on the night. He finished his Cavs debut with 10 points and one rebound, hitting four of his eight field goal attempts.
This game was a total team effort from the Cavs, both offensively and defensively. Everyone contributed in their own way. Tristan Thompson totaled 18 points and 15 rebounds, hitting nine of his 12 shot attempts. Sixth man Dion Waiters, second in the NBA in points per game off the bench, scored 17 points on just 13 shot attempts. The Deng-era in Cleveland appears to be going well so far. Since the trade was announced, the Cavs are 2-0 and are looking poised to make a run at the postseason in a weak Eastern Conference.