CLEVELAND, Ohio – During the second quarter of Saturday night’s game, the Cleveland Cavaliers had an offensive explosion filled with ball movement.
Darius Garland and other guards created off dribble penetration and found teammates on the weak side. Kevin Love fed the ball to Tristan Thompson for dunks. The Cavs swung the ball and made extra passes, working to take the best shot possible.
The Cavs scored 39 points in the second quarter, and that performance was an important part of their 110-99 win over the Indiana Pacers in the home opener at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“Just the extra pass,” coach John Beilein said. “There were several times where, I call the hockey assist, the one that leads to the pass. Sometimes we had, I would give two hockey assists.”
Though there were 18 turnovers by game’s end, Beilein was pleased by his team’s 23 assists. He also liked how the Cavs went to the free throw line 29 times.
“That’s gotta be a thing that we’re always doing because we do have a good foul-shooting team, I feel,” he said.
For much of the night, the Cavaliers’ ball movement led to the Pacers scrambling to defend and, eventually, foul. The Cavs regularly found quality shots, and in the second quarter especially, the ball didn’t seem to stick. It wasn’t a surprise that there were 10 assists in the quarter.
“Tonight we played with so much pace,” power forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “Played with a lot of pace, played out of drags, delays. Just really nothing set. Just kind of playing basketball, making the ball move. And any time you can do that, any time basketball’s fun, you’re usually playing the right way.”
The Cavs fed off each other, taking advantage of the Pacers’ inability to defend passing lanes.
On one play, Garland, who has quickly emerged as one of the team’s best playmakers, simply reacted to what he saw. As Nance dribbled the ball down the floor, he handed it off to Garland. Garland dribbled the ball past his defender, and he quickly found Kevin Porter Jr. for an alley-oop.
Jordan Clarkson led the reserves with 15 points off the bench, and he spoke on the importance of Love and Thompson starting their work inside.
Love nearly had his fourth career triple-double, scoring 21 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing nine assists. Thompson scored a team-high 25 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and made his first career 3-pointer. Thompson’s 25-point outing was his first since 2014.
“It makes the game easier for us, since they’re putting so much pressure on the rim, it helps us get wide open shots on the weak side,” Clarkson said adding how this is a sustainable path to success.
“Just doing the same thing, get in the paint, kicking out, finding shooters,” Clarkson said. “And then keep the team in play to the other side.”
Cleveland will play the Milwaukee Bucks on the road Monday at 8 p.m.