You probably know this; it isn't a new phenomenon. Over the past few years . . . since Cleveland made the jump from "good" to "elite" . . . there have always been those games where the Cavs make some random player look like a superstar against them.
Typically, it involves a guard or wing player, with a barely recognizable name, who suddenly notches a career high in points (or maybe assists) against the Cavs . . . mostly due to very poor perimeter defense and resistance-free penetration.
With the addition of Anthony Parker, the Cavs' perimeter defense is significantly better this season . . . so there are fewer of the notorious "Star Making" games. Still it happens.
(Off the top of my head, there was the New Orleans Hornets' Marcus Thornton, in a game just after the All-Star Break . . . and Rasual Butler of the L.A. Clippers back in January.)
And in a way, it happened in the Cavs' game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
Yes, the Raptors' Jarrett Jack came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points and dish out a team-high six assists . . . and Amir Johnson (also off the bench) scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds, both numbers two off from his season highs . . . that's not what I'm referring to.
Instead, the Cavs hosted a "Star-Making" game . . . for themselves.
They did it with a dynamic offense, led by LeBron James (of course), in which the Cavs were not merely keeping the ball moving . . . but were setting up their teammates, and were being aggressive when they were the ones being set up.
When it was all said and done, the Cavs finished with an incredible 38 assists on 47 made baskets.
Let's put that into perspective.
The Cavs have only had more than 38 assists once in the LeBron James Era. That game happened two years ago against the Washington Wizards. The Cavs had 39 assists. LeBron led the way with eight, and Sasha Pavlovic followed with seven, which was and still is his career high in assists. (There are no ties. That's the only game in his career where he's had more than six assists.)
Other passers in that game included: Larry Hughes (6 assists) Eric Snow (5 assists), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (4 assists) and Damon Jones (3 assists).
Z led the team in scoring that night with 24 points. (LeBron had 23.)
The only other qualifying game in the LeBron James Era came against the Chicago Bulls three seasons ago. In that one, the Cavs had 38 assists (like they did Tuesday night). That night, LeBron had 12, Hughes had six, Snow had five, Drew Gooden had three, and almost everyone else that played had two.
Gooden led the team in scoring that night with 20 points. (LeBron had 19.)
In Tuesday's game, LeBron again finished second in scoring behind Antawn Jamison, who had 20 points. And with all the smart, sharp passing, there were plenty of points to go around. Cleveland had seven players in double figures.
(In both the previous two 38+ assist games, the Cavs had five players in double figures.)
Here's how the Toronto game broke down:
Those numbers include a season-high in assists for Mo . . . and a season-high in points and rebounds for Anthony Parker. [Mo's career high in assists is 15, which he did in his pre-Cavs days. LeBron's career high in assists is also 15. He has already done it twice this season and three times overall.]
It should be noted that the Toronto Raptors were without Chris Bosh, who suffered a fractured face after taking an inadvertent elbow from Jamison early in the game.
It's not that Bosh is an assist-killer . . . although I'd like to see that defined . . . but it definitely contributed to Toronto playing even less defense than they normally do. (They're rated last in defense among all 30 teams.)
The good news is: Even with Bosh, the Cavaliers will be able to put on some jaw-dropping offensive displays if they do end up drawing the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. (Realistically, it looks like it'll either be the Raptors or the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are currently down a game on the Raps.)
The problem is: The Raptors have played the Cavs well all season . . . and, with their length and athleticism, should challenge the Cavs' defense. (However, I thoroughly expect an all-out parade for the arrival of the Cavs' defense in the playoffs, so we'll see how close the Raps can play the Cavs then.)
Also, the Raptors are 7-12 in their last 19 games, since they last played Cleveland.
(The Bulls will play the Cavs in Chicago this Thursday . . . and then they'll play the New Jersey Nets on Saturday before going head-to-head with the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday.)
Finally, it's interesting that the Cavs didn't hold back much in this game, stars' minutes-wise, despite having locked up the best record in the NBA. Perhaps this shows that Mike Brown, at least for now, would like the Cavs to continue playing with a full roster, at full minutes, to work out the wrinkles before the playoffs.
Or maybe it had something to do with keeping the Raptors from having any optimism about beating the Cavs in a potential first round match-up.