There was not an exact play drawn up, but with 5.8 seconds remaining, Cavaliers guard Mo Williams was forced to create. What started with a jab step at the left elbow ended in Williams jumping on to the scorers table in celebration as the high-arking jump shot caught nothing but net.
Williams’ game-winning shot at the buzzer was the perfect end to a game that was marred by ebbs, but had just enough flows for the Cavaliers to come back from their worst first half of the 2010-11 season and beat the Milwaukee Bucks 83-81.
“I’ve always been comfortable taking the final shot,” said Williams. “Being in position to take them, I’m not afraid to miss them.”
But as big as that final shot was, being a game-winner against his former team, Williams was quick to redirect the attention to the Cavs’ work on the defensive end, the part that truly kept the team in the game until the final 5.8 seconds.
“Any time you work on the defensive end, things come easier because you have your juices flowing,” said Williams.
Down 10 at the half, the Cavaliers were forced to grind their way back in the second half. Mentally, this comeback would be tough given that the team scored a season-low 34 points in the entire first half after shooting 38 percent and 35 percent from the floor, respectively. The good news was that the Wine and Gold managed to play some solid defense, holding the Bucks to only 44 first-half points.
Once the shots started falling for the Cavaliers, a 7-0 run in the third quarter allowed them to get right back into the game. For the second half, the Cavs shot 48.6 percent from the field, led by the starting (starting!) backcourt tandem of Williams (25 points, 21 of which came in the second half) and Anthony Parker (14 points). Anderson Varejao was instrumental in allowing the Cavaliers to rack up a few second chances, finishing with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The game was not without scare, however as Daniel Gibson, the man who is currently fourth in the NBA in reserve scoring, would head to the locker room with a shoulder injury after attempting to run through a screen on the defensive end. While it looked like it could be severe, Gibson would later return in the game, finishing with 12 points and two very good three-point shots that simply did not fall in the fourth quarter.
With a tie game and just less than 24 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers drew up a play that would provide them the last shot of the game. The only glitch was that Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings (3 points on 1-0f-10 shooting) decided to foul Williams with 5.8 seconds remaining and a foul to give. From there, it was improvisation, and Williams took it on his shoulders.
“I wanted Mo to survey the court and if he didn’t have a shot, find the open guy,” said Byron Scott postgame. “Having Boobie [Gibson], Antawn [Jamison], and AP out there, you really get to spread the floor pretty good. He found an open Boobie, Boobie just missed it. I think Mo made the right play.”
The roller coaster that has been Mo Williams’ 2010-11 season is well documented. Changing up his signature goatee and facing his old team, it was a perfect night for Williams to step up and hit a huge shot for the Cavaliers, a team in much need of a boost in confidence heading into the Thanksgiving holiday and then back-to-back games against the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. Scott said that he had a “little conversation” with his team after their brutal loss to the Indiana Pacers, and was confident that the professionals (specifically Mo and Andy) would bounce back in a major way.
“I had no worries about Mo bouncing back tonight,” said Scott. “He didn’t play really well last night, but neither did a lot of guys on our team. We had a little conversation this afternoon about him being a little bit more assertive, a little bit more aggressive and I thought he did just that on both ends of the floor tonight.”
Williams asserted that this game was one that both teams felt that they could win. Both the Cavaliers and the Bucks have been playing sub-par basketball over the course of the last week, so for the Cavaliers to get this one at home, lifting their record to 6-7, was able to make the team feel better about themselves.
Williams said that while we have all “done it before” in regard to thinking about hitting game-winnings shots, that it is a lot of pressure and you have to be willing to miss if you want to take a shot of such magnitude. Williams recognizes that the Cavaliers have several players that can make that type of shot, but he said that he is willing to accept the role as aggressor and that “one guy” that can step up with the game on the line.
Though Wendesday night’s game-winning shot was the fourth of Williams’ career, it was his first as a member of the Cavaliers.
“You gotta go back to my Milwaukee days,” said Williams. “When I was here, we had this other guy.”
(Lonnie Timmons III / The Plain Dealer)