CLEVELAND: Nineteen thoughts for 19 fouls committed in a hard-fought 90-88 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday…



1. David Blatt has been promoting J.R. Smith as a two-way player since shortly after Smith arrived here in a January trade from the Knicks. Smith strung together one of his finest defensive performances of the season Saturday, so Blatt stuck with him in the game’s most crucial moments.



2. Smith nearly made him regret that decision. But LeBron James is strong enough to wash away the most egregious of basketball sins.



3. It was curious to me that Blatt left Smith on Joe Johnson for the final two possessions Saturday. Smith did a nice job throughout the night – he had a career-high four blocks and he baited Johnson into an offensive foul earlier in the fourth – but the game’s final minute is typically the time James takes over the opponent’s top shooter. In this case, that’s Johnson.



4. A couple reasons why that didn’t happen: James had been on Jarrett Jack for a lot of the fourth and Blatt wanted to keep it that way. It might seem curious to have James on Jack, but the Cavs were switching on 1-5 pick-and-rolls, so James was switching onto Brook Lopez and Tristan Thompson was picking up Jack. That had been working well (Lopez only had two baskets in the fourth) so the Cavs didn’t want to sway from it.



5. That left Smith on Johnson, who got a good look at a potential game winner with 18 seconds left, but it rattled out. Then with the Cavs leading by three and 15 seconds left, Smith stayed on Johnson and got hung up on a screen. He tried to recover, but instead crashed into Johnson for a costly, crucial and senseless foul. Smith hung his head immediately.



6. “Brook set a pretty illegal screen so he got space and I tried to catch up and couldn’t slow down,” Smith said. “Sigh of relief because if we would have lost this game I don’t know what would have happened in here. I don’t know if somebody would’ve came at me or I would’ve came at myself, something. It was very nerve-racking for me. Fortunately they were telling me the whole time, ‘Keep your head up, we’re going to win this game’ and we did.”



7. James has gotten on Smith before about fouling shooters. He sent Nic Batum to the line for three shots early in the third quarter Friday, then it happened again Saturday. The foul overshadowed what was otherwise a very, very good night for Smith defensively.



8. “For me, it says two things,” Smith said when asked what it means that Blatt trusted him on Johnson late. “If we lose, blame this on J.R.” Smith and everyone around him cracked up.



9. “No, it gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “Coach has been believing in me since I got here and I appreciate it and I just have to keep working.”



10. James, of course, bailed out Smith and the Cavs on a night it was clear early on they didn’t have any legs. James conceded Friday’s win at Charlotte took a lot out of them and Blatt thought the travel along with the third game in four nights left them tired.



11. Kevin Love admitted as much, too. Love said 11 of his 14 shots Saturday were 3-pointers because he was tired. “I mean seriously that was a lot of the reason,” he said. “The first five minutes of the game I don’t know, I just needed to catch my second wind.”





12. Back to James. His half hook/half floater, runner in the lane to win it was the first time he could recall using that shot on a game winner. It wasn’t as smooth as his typical drives to the rim or a pull-up jumper, but it was certainly just as effective. James used a Tristan Thompson screen to get open and lofted the shot over 7-foot Brook Lopez. 



13. “Brook did not think in his wildest years I was going to shoot that one,” James said. “I got to my spot where I wanted to get to and I just trusted what I’ve always done. I work on those shots. I work on my game a lot. And I just floated it up. Sometimes it’s a little easier when you get someone bigger because you got to get it over top of them.”



14. Remember when people wondered if James was a clutch player? Well he leads the league in scoring during the final minute when the game is within 3 points on either side. James is shooting 50 percent in such situations and his 17 points are the most in the league. His three assists under the same parameters also lead the league, which means James has actually had a hand in eight baskets during the final minute of tight games. Sounds pretty clutch to me.



15. Russell Westbrook, incidentally, is second on that list with 13 points. DeMar DeRozan and Reggie Jackson are tied with 11 points and Victor Oladipo has 10.



16. Funny moment postgame. James took a long time to talk to reporters tonight because he wanted to get dressed first (sometimes he talks in a towel, sometimes he gets dressed. When it’s a milestone game or a game-winner like tonight and he knows his interview will be played everywhere, he tends to get dressed first before talking. But James began watching League Pass games while he was getting dressed, which slowed the process even more.



17. James’ locker is in the corner near the door to the trainer’s room. Richard Jefferson stuck his head out of the door and tried to get out, only to see the sea of reporters swarming James. Now remember, this is about an hour after the game ended and James was just doing media.



18. Jefferson: “Dawg you still talking?”



James: “I just started, I just started.”



Jefferson: “Geez.”



James: “I just started.”



 “We finished a six-pack back there,” Jefferson said while walking out of the locker room. And after a long pause added, “Oooooof water. Relax.”



Even James cracked up.



19. Blatt joked about the dark circles under everyone’s eyes from a long week of travel. Very true. Cavs are taking Sunday off before practicing Monday for the first time in two weeks. Then it’s the Washington Wizards at home on Tuesday. Talk to you then.