Let that marinate for a minute.
Without LeBron James, historically one of the best crunch-time players to ever play the game, the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the top of the league through said three-game time frame. On the road for all three contests, the Cavs have averaged 35 points in the final 12 minutes, all resulting in tally marks among the win column. For comparison, the typically high-powered offenses of the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks have averaged 19.7 and 16.7, respectively.
Through 2009, the Cavs averaged 24.0 points per fourth quarter. Thus far in 2010, the Cavs are putting up 27.9, good enough for second in the entire NBA through the first two full weeks of play. If one were to look down team-based stat lists, however, the Cavs are not among the top in almost every specific list.
The Wine and Gold are 19th in field goals made, 10th in three-point field goals made, 15th in free throws made, and 14th in eFG%. But, as has been preached by Byron Scott on multiple occasions this season, the whole continues to be greater than the sum of the parts. This perceived rag-tag bunch of “guys” - a troop without their leader of the last seven years – continues to get it done during the most important time of the game.
Among the best in the fourth quarter thus far is guard Daniel Gibson. Entering Tuesday night, Boobie was second in the entire NBA in fourth-quarter scoring. Fittingly, Gibson chipped in with eight more points in the fourth quarter in the form of two huge three-pointers and the shot that was considered by many to be the “dagger” in the form of an Allen Iverson-like jab and step-back jumper from the elbow.
But while we can lament on one guy getting the job done, fact of the matter is that this Cavaliers team is getting contributions from everyone. Not only did the Cavs receive 52 points from the bench, but they are a team that shares the ball so well that opposing teams cannot rely on double-teaming or planning for one single clutch-time player. In Tuesday night’s win over New Jersey, the Cavaliers received points from the abovementioned Gibson, but also Antawn Jamison, Jawad Williams, Anthony Parker and Ramon Sessions.
Of their 27 total assists on Tuesday night, 10 led to field goals at the rim (five of which were from Mo Williams alone) and nine led to three-pointers.
Like the previous two road wins, both featuring strong fourth-quarter play, head coach Byron Scott continues to applaud the defensive effort in getting stops. However, from a fan standpoint, this team has played pretty solid defense for most of the last seven years. To see them execute on the offensive end, especially to the tune of nearly 30 points per game, speaks volumes to Scott’s conditioning work as well as his focus on ball movement and execution.
Beats the heck out of clock-killing dribbles any day of the week.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)