The last time the Cavaliers won without LeBron James in the lineup, Sasha Pavlovic and Ira Newble were counted on to play a heavy amount of minutes. Given this, it was fitting that last night’s 97-95 win over the San Antonio Spurs featured at least 30 minutes from Jawad Williams, Delonte West and Anderson Varejao – all of whom are (typically) bench players this season.
It was a night where it appeared that the team was dropping like flies. James was out once again, nursing a sore ankle. Center Shaquille O’Neal continues to recover from his surgically repaired thumb. Midway through the game, Anthony Parker was forced to leave with a jammed finger. And adding even more salt to the wounds, newly acquired forward Antawn Jamison was forced to leave the contest with a sore knee.
Nevertheless, the Cavaliers managed to outscore the Spurs 25-19 in the fourth quarter to record their 50th win of the 2009-10 season.
In the four games prior to last night, Williams had averaged 9.5 points on 20.6 percent from the floor. Not long after fans were piling on point guard Mo Williams for his stretch of suspect play, the former All-Star answered the call.
Williams logged 34 minutes of play (only JJ Hickson received more time), finishing with 17 points (7-of-16 from the floor), eight rebounds and eight assists. With a small-ball lineup surrounding him for most of the night, Williams was frequently pushing the pace, leading to easy buckets, drawing the ire of Spurs coach Greg Popovich.
“We gave away 8-12 points just because they ran it right down our throat and our transition was godawful,” Popovich said. “That was the worst part of the whole game.”
And while he had been cold for much of the evening from three-point range, Mo sank his lone trey of the night with just under six minutes remaining to tie the game at 85-85.
Despite only playing 21 minutes prior to his exit, Jamison was very productive. The power forward finished with 17 points, sinking three of his four three-point attempts (62.5 eFG%). Outside of the pair of 17-point scorers, the Cavaliers had a well-balanced attack with West, Varejao, Hickson, and Williams all tallying double-digits in the scoring column. Varejao also added nine rebounds and a team-high +10 on the night.
The Spurs did not go quietly by any stretch of the imagination. Missing point guard Tony Parker with a hand injury, they relied heavily on the backcourt tandem of George Hill and Manu Ginobili. Ginobili brought back haunting memories by scoring 38 points, converting 7-of-11 from three-point land. It would have been eight threes if not for his foot being on the line with nine seconds remaining in the game.
Thankfully, the Cavaliers were able to neutralize Tim Duncan for much of the contest, limiting him to 13 point and five rebounds in 31 minutes of play. Much of this was due to the effort of foward/center JJ Hickson, who also had a bounce-back game following an abysmal two-game stretch. The goat of the evening may have been San Antonio’s Roger Mason who finished with two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Typically a solid shooter from outside, Mason missed all eight of his attempts, including the potential game-tying attempt with 3.9 seconds remaining.
A pair of free throws from Williams as well as Varejao put the Cavaliers up by five before Ginobili would hit a meaningless three-ball at the buzzer. Meaningless, assuming you did not jump on the four-point spread that was available around 5PM yesterday, that is.
The Cavs will now enjoy a much-needed three days of rest. Jamison is slated to undergo an MRI on his knee today, but has already claimed that he will play Friday in Philadelphia. It is assumed that LeBron James will play leading into Sunday’s contest with the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers’ magic number for best record in the NBA is currently 14.