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Dunn is frisky, Holiday needs a conscience, and is LeBron underrated?

The Cavs took care of business, but there’s something to learn even in a blowout

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s hard to find any silver linings in a game that was essentially over after Jae Crowder pushed the Cavaliers to a seven point lead about nine minutes into the game. And I’m loathe to praise a guy who air-balled two layup attempts when the game was still theoretically competitive.

But Kris Dunn recovered from that bad early start to the game to finish with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Dunn, clearly, is far from a great finisher at the rim, but he’s up to a respectable 58% of shots inside of three feet after making an abysmal 50.7% of shots in the restricted area in his rookie season. He’s also taking a much higher proportion of his shots within the restricted area than he did with the Timberwolves. During Monday’s game, Dunn slashed at will through the Cavaliers defense, a stingy 7th in the NBA during their current winning streak. Dunn takes advantage of the spacing that Lauri Markkanen provides, and it’s good to see his willingness to attack after a year in Minnesota when the highest proportion of his shot attempts came from between 16 feet and the three point arc.

Last night Dunn was 6/13 from the floor and shot 50% on his four attempts from three point range. While one of his two misses was an especially gruesome air-ball, it was encouraging to see him at least try to take advantage of defenders ducking way under screens. Dunn is taking only 20% of his field goal attempts from three, per Basketball Reference, a rate that needs to increase if Dunn ever hopes to approach average offensive efficiency. Dunn has made 42.5% of his 40 attempts this season, an extremely small sample size, but hopefully this early season hot streak provides him the confidence to keep shooting, if only to keep defenses honest.

Dunn did not light the world on fire, but at least the offense felt alive during his minutes, playing with a rhythm and verve that was noticeably absent in the minutes he sat. Because the same cannot be said about the terribly disjointed 13 minutes that Jerian Grant played as Dunn’s backup. Grant did not have the quickness or confidence in his handle to attack the Cavaliers defense, even a bench unit anchored by Channing Frye. He doesn’t have the Point Guard Gene of a guy like his opponent Jose Calderon, limited athletically but smart enough to facilitate the offense despite his physical shortcomings. Too many of Grant’s possession turned into a game of hot potato around the three point arc.

Do less, Justin Holiday

The Bulls are so shallow on the wing, I feel bad criticizing Justin Holiday. When the dribble weave produces no openings and the shot clock is running down, somebody needs to shoot, and Holiday all too often finds himself in the unenviable position of needing to make something out of nothing.

But Monday, on a night he was anything but hot, Justin Holiday flung bricks without a care. Take away a ridiculously lucky banked three at the third quarter buzzer, and Holiday shot 30% from the field and 2/7 from three. Many of Holiday’s shots were heavily contested and taken with enough time on the shot clock to try and explore alternative options.

Holiday thus far is posting a career high in usage (20%) and a career low in True Shooting (49.7%).

It’s hard to complain about Holiday’s shot selection when there isn’t anyone clearly more deserving of extra attempts. And I’ll give him credit for turning over the ball on just 7.8% of possessions, an unexpected career low in a season when so much burden falls on his shoulders. But this team would still be well served if he exercised better judgement with his shot selection.

Random LeBron play that reminded me I don’t fully appreciate LeBron

LeBron had one incredible drive and finish in early in the fourth quarter on a play where he magically turned the Bulls on the floor into Swiss cheese.

This is the clip that will certainly accompany the 12 second SportsCenter review of an otherwise unremarkable game. But we see players make nifty dribbling moves and acrobatic finishes every night. What seperates LeBron from the rest (historically speaking, like, the rest of mankind) is his combination of physical profile, incredible intelligence and passing ability. Even on a play that does not register anything in the box score next to his name, LeBron is manipulating defenses in ways few players can.

At the :02 mark of this clip, LeBron sees Markkanen slide into the paint to stop deter a drive past Robin Lopez. At the :03 mark, LeBron spies Justin Holiday drop back just a hair towards Kevin Love man in the corner. Just those two steps backwards to cover for the helping Markkanen were all that LeBron needed to make magic. At the :04 second mark, James, without picking up his dribble, lasers a perfect skip pass to JR Smith through the tiniest window, who quickly moves it to a wide open Love in the corner for an easy three.

LeBron is awesome even when he is destroying your team, and that’s pretty awesome.