Last time, in the first installment of the season, we took a look at Kyrie Irving’s late-game execution. As always, if you have ideas for items I should analyze, feel free to drop me a line at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This week, we’re going to focus on Saturday night’s win in Washington that featured another 41-point effort from Kyrie Irving. But, instead of looking at Kyrie’s string of buckets, we’re going to take a look at what inserting Matthew Dellavedova into the lineup provided Mike Brown and why it’s likely that given the team’s struggles, Delly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The first thing that Dellavedova did was provide defensive effort in guarding Bradley Beal. Beal was 6-for-9 for 16 points in the first half, and the Cavaliers’ guards were doing a terrible job of closing out on him as he cashed in on the perimeter. Let’s take a look at a couple of defensive possessions where Delly did his job and got the Cavaliers rolling in the second half. The Wizards are just settling into halfcourt offense after a transition push. Nene has the ball at the top of the key, and Delly is guarding Bradley Beal on the left wing.
You see the head motion from Beal and the pass fake from Nene to set up a backdoor scenario. A knockdown three-point threat like Beal draws so much respect for his range that a play like this will often work when you have a patient passer and a determined scorer.
Notice, however, that Delly doesn’t bite on the fake. He’s in very good guarding position where a pass is going to have to be perfect to get by him. He has his eyes on Nene and sees the play developing. Beal starts his cut to the basket.
My high school coach used to always talk about “head on a swivel” defense. The idea is that you can pivot your head without turning your back on your man and keeping the ball in sight as much as possible. You can see Delly remain in great guarding position, snapping his head through to stick with Beal on his cut toward the basket.
Because of this sound defense, Nene has to lead Beal too far toward the basket, Beal fumbles the pass, and it goes out of bounds.
Next, we see Delly play the passing lane for a steal. Beal starts out on the right wing, and Garrett Temple has the ball out top. Beal goes to cut to the left side of the court, but watch how Dellavedova stays up on him.
Because of his tight defense, Delly is able to slide past the Jan Vesely pick on the right elbow.
As Beal finishes his cut, Delly slides back in between Beal and the ball.
On a somewhat lazy pass from Temple, Dellavedova deflects the pass into the backcourt. Notice that Delly went with his left hand instead of his right hand. This is crucial, because if you don’t get the ball or someone tries to run a backdoor play on you, you’re completely lost if you open up out of a defensive stance and go with the outside (right, in this case) hand.
Delly tosses it out ahead, but he unfortunately gets blocked at the rim on a layup attempt.
In one more defensive series, we see Beal trying to run the same action with Marcin Gortat.
This screen is a much more effective one, and he catches Delly, but he’s quick to fight around it to the top-side (again, going top-side because of Beal’s shooting skill).
Tristan does a great job of staying at home here. Because of this, Beal is forced to take a contested leaner with Delly recovering from behind him.
Beal misses the shot, and the Cavaliers grab the board. Taking Beal off the perimeter is the first victory, and getting him to miss the shot after a contested look is the second one. Beal shot 5-of-16 in the second half for 12 points.
Let’s take a look at offense as well. Now, Matthew was just 1-for-5 in this game, but it was his offensive movement, spacing, and flow that helped facilitate things for the Cavs. First, he grabbed multiple defensive rebounds himself (6 in all) and pushed the ball up the court looking for transition opportunities. Given the Cavs’ offensive woes, this is something they thrived on last season and should be easy to increase.
Delly grabs the long rebound and is already turning up court in one motion. Despite the fact that they don’t really have numbers, he’s going to try and take advantage of the Wizards lagging to get back on defense.
The one guy he does have out ahead of him is Kyrie Irving. Look at this passing window, this is admittedly tight. The Cavs are in effect 2-on-3 right now, but watch how Delly zips this in and immediately gives Kyrie a scoring angle.
If he had went for the over-the-top pass or dribbled past halfcourt, there likely would not have been a transition opportunity, but because Delly stopped early and fired an on-target pass, it allowed Kyrie to do his thing with a head of steam and two defenders that were both out of position.
The Masked Uncle Drew, two points.
Finally, speaking of setting up Kyrie, this was one of my favorite plays of the year so far. It got me out of my seat in my parents’ living room. In the overtime session, with the Cavs up just two points, Matthew Dellavedova sprung Kyrie for a wide-open three pointer. Let’s see how this developed.
Kyrie heads up the left side of the court and gets the ball. Beal is the closest guard, so he picks up Kyrie, despite the fact that it’s John Wall’s man. It’s pretty typical transition defense stuff, right?
Smile, Wizards! You’re on defensive transition candid camera! Look at how there are four Wizards all in a blob between halfcourt and the three-point line. There’s also only one Cavalier around them. Delly notices this and quickly gets in position to seal off Beal and give Kyrie in effect the entire left side of the floor to work his magic.
What a beautiful sight! From a 6’4″ point guard, it doesn’t get more textbook than that pick. Two feet firmly planted with a wide base, in position to take the contact and stand his ground, and he’s set it with enough room for Kyrie to go around the outside.
John Wall finally wakes up and joins the play, but it’s too late. Kyrie buries the trey, and that right there was the bucket that put the momentum firmly in the Cavaliers’ corner and led them to victory. Obviously, a lot of credit needs to go for Kyrie for making that shot, which probably looked easy compared to the heavily contested shots he took for most of the second half and overtime. But, it goes to show how doing the little, unsung things can help your team win the game.
In the last two games, we’ve seen Dellavedova log 58 minutes with a +/- of +37. He has shot just 4-for-11, but he has 9 rebounds and just 1 turnover. Matthew was the man at Saint Mary’s, a four-year starter who scored nearly 2,000 points and shot 12 times per game. Often, however, it’s how big men on campus that go undrafted adjust to fitting a role and filling a specific need for a NBA team that determines whether they are able to latch on in the association.
With the injury to C.J. Miles, the flux state of Dion Waiters, and the early returns on Sergey Karasev, there’s no reason to think that Mike Brown won’t be looking for extended minutes from Dellavedova in the short term.
That’s all for this week. Until next time, the film room is closed!