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Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said after Tuesday’s 120-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder that his new-look team “exceeded [his] expectations,” according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.
Lue also expressed his belief that the flurry of pre-deadline trades made by general manager Koby Altman changed the dynamic of the team: “I think we’ve got to get back to being the hunters and not the hunted. These young guys we have, able to shoot, drive or pass it, adds a different element to our team. They’re playing free, having fun.”
The Cavs acquired Rodney Hood, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., while shipping out Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Isaiah Thomas.
Cleveland is 2-0 since its new acquisitions joined the team, as it previously routed the Boston Celtics 121-99 in a road game Sunday.
LeBron James led the way with 37 points in Tuesday’s win over the Thunder, but all four additions contributed to the triumph as well.
Hood and Clarkson each netted 14 points, Nance finished with 13 points and Hill added seven points and four assists.
There were significant questions about the Cavaliers’ chemistry and their willingness to play selfless basketball before the trades, but Lue doesn’t view that as a problem any longer:
“The biggest thing is Clarkson finished the game. George Hill during the timeout was talking to him and happy. Tristan [Thompson] is happy for Larry Nance. That’s what we’ve got to have. If you want to win you’ve got to sacrifice. With our team that we have, whoever’s playing well is going to finish the game. They understand that and it’s all about winning with this group.”
Eight players spent at least 23 minutes on the court Tuesday, which may give the Cavs one of the NBA’s deepest, most versatile groups.
All-Star Kevin Love is out with a broken hand, but his eventual return will add another dimension to a team that was floundering before Altman’s bold moves.
Having won four games in a row and improved to 34-22, the Cavaliers may be close to re-establishing themselves as the East’s favorites, as they search for their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.