“Cleveland has been so good, they haven’t needed LeBron in the fourth quarter,” an advance scout told me recently. “That’s going to help them in the playoffs.” Indeed, the Cavaliers have been downright lethal in the third quarter this season; on average, only the Celtics and Lakers outscore the opposition by more in that period than Cleveland does.
I am sure there is some statistical mining to do in this area, but off the top of my head here’s what I am thinking. Typically the Cavaliers could come out playing strong in the first half in the past. Then, when they got to halftime the other team would make adjustments (usually to stop LeBron) and the Cavs would be cooked for a quarter only to leave fans desperately wondering if the Cavs would be able to take care of business in the 4th quarter.
The Cavs must now have more options than the other team now has adjustments. This means Mo Williams, of course, but it also means guys like Ben Wallace and Andy diving to the hoop. It means Delonte showing both inside and outside games. It means that Sasha and Wally actually step up on certain nights. I will try not to jinx it, but it actually looks like this team is (gasp) deep for once.
It makes sense, too. There is no Eric Snow. There is no Damon Jones or Donyell Marshall. Those guys couldn’t sniff the floor on this team. Doesn’t it feel good?