The Fifth Quarter: JR Smith's hot-hand leading the way for the Cavs

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The Cavaliers are on a tear right now and J.R. Smith — yes, J.R. Smith — has been the most consistent offensive force of late for the Eastern Conference’s top team.

Smith led the way in the Cavs' 125-99 win over the Timberwolves with 27 points in just 19 minutes. It was the team’s third straight game scoring better than 120 points and his third straight 20-plus-point game.

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The streaky shooter has been particularly hot from long range during that stretch, hitting 18 of 30 3-point attempts against the Raptors, Wizards and Timberwolves, scoring 24, 25 and 27, respectively. 

LeBron James is obviously Cleveland’s most valuable player, Kyrie Irving is an All-Star and Kevin Love is a consistent double-double threat, but Smith may be the team’s X-factor.

He was a big part of the team’s run to the NBA Finals last year, playing particularly well against the Bulls and Hawks. But his play tailed off in the Finals, as the undermanned Cavs couldn’t beat the Warriors, and he was the first to admit it.

History says Smith won’t continue his hot shooting forever. But this impressive three-game stretch shows just how good the Cavs can be when Smith is locked in. 

Tweet of the Night

Because it wouldn't be a night in the NBA if we didn't talk about what Russell Westbrook was wearing. 


Lou Williams was the star of the Lakers' 117-113 loss to the Thunder, but Jordan Clarkson had the toughest shot of the night, nailing this buzzer-beater to end the first quarter. 

Another night, another silly Stephen Curry highlight. Andrew Bogut was the beneficiary of this nifty no-look, over-the-head alley-oop. Curry finished with 26 points and nine assists in the Warriors’ 128-108 win in Portland.

Dwyane Wade turned back the clock for this spin move and slam against the Suns. The 33-year-old scored a game-high 27 points in the Heat’s 103-95 win.

Studs of the Night 

DeMar DeRozan came up big for the Raptors against the Wizards. DeRozan scored 35 points as the Raptors won 97-88. 

The Spurs beat the Knicks 100-99 to remain unbeaten at home, but Kristaps Porzingis gave them all they could handle. The rookie big man scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Tim Duncan and Co. 

Klay Thompson continues to put on a dazzling display of offensive basketball. Thompson came up with his second straight game of 36 points, helping his Warriors beat the Trailblazers 128-108. On the other end of the spectrum, Damian Lillard had 40 points and 10 assists for Portland in a losing effort.

And in the nightcap, Lou Williams erupted for 44 points on 12-for-25 shooting in the Lakers' 117-113 loss to the Thunder.

Dud of the Night

The Pacers managed a 91-86 road win against the Pelicans, but it was a struggle. No one struggled more than Paul George, who scored 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting and turned the ball over four times. 

Looking ahead (all times Eastern)

Hornets (17-18) at Clippers (23-13), 3:30 p.m.: These teams are heading in very different directions. The Hornets are losers of five in a row and find themselves a game below .500; the Clippers are rolling along with seven consecutive wins.

Bulls (22-12) at Hawks (22-15), 5 p.m.: The Bulls are riding a six-game winning streak. The Hawks are trying to start a streak of their own after spanking the Sixers 126-98 on Thursday.

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