They say box scores don’t tell the whole story. Behind The Box Score is a new series where from time to time we will attempt to look behind the box score and tell more of the complete story of what happened in the game.
For the 2nd time in this young NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers attempted a furious late game comeback. And for the 2nd time, they fell short in the end. In this one, the Cavaliers appeared well on their way to a 30 point home loss to the Washington Wizards. But undrafted free agent rookie Matthew Dellavedova used his effort to spark some life in the Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving began taking over.
With 6:35 left in the 3rd quarter, John Wall hit a shot to put the Wizards up 73-46. Mike Brown called a timeout and made wholesale substitutions, bringing in Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao, and Henry Sims. That unit began chipping away at the Wizards’ lead. In the 4th quarter Kyrie Irving came back in and began scoring and attacking and the Cavaliers would climb all the way back to within 4 points at 90-86 with 1:39 left in the game.
The Cavs defense got a big stop on the ensuing Wizards possession, but Earl Clark was called for a brutal loose ball foul that negated the Cavaliers rebound and gave Marcin Gortat a pair of free throws. This was followed up by a Dion Waiters travelling violation and with that the comeback lost steam and the Cavaliers eventually fell 98-91.
You would hope this game would send a message and provide a learning opportunity for the Cavaliers. It’s equally encouraging that Matthew Dellavedova was showing so much effort and discouraging that it took an undrafted free agent rookie to show this team what kind of effort is required in a game like this. The Cavaliers have come out flat time and time again this season and at some point this has to change. Whether it’s coaching or the players themselves, somehow this team has to figure out how to come out and play hard for all 4 quarters.
Now lets get into the numbers…
– +21 – In a game in which Tristan Thompson was –28, Andrew Bynum was –21, Kyrie Irving was –20, and Earl Clark was –14, it was the Cavaliers’ bench that made this a game. And nobody played harder in this game than Matthew Dellavedova. Delly finished a game-high +21. In the 4th quarter his defensive effort was especially inspiring. Delly was draped all over Bradley Beal, determined to not let Beal catch the ball in scoring position. He also knocked down 3 big shots from behind the arc for 9 points. There weren’t a lot of positives for the Cavaliers in this game, but Delly was definitely the biggest positive in this one.
– 74 to 17 – Through three quarters, the Wizards starters outscored the Cavaliers 74 to 17. Bradley Beal looked unstoppable with 22 points and there were no answers for Nene in the post as he had 18 points. Meanwhile, with CJ Miles leaving the game two and a half minutes into the game with an injury, the Cavaliers starters couldn’t find anyone to pick up the scoring slack. Clark had 3 points while Thompson and Bynum had 2 points each. Only Kyrie Irving was in double figures with 10 points. It’s tough to win any game when your starters are outscored by the opponents’ starters by 57 points.
– 44 – The Wizards had 44 points in the paint in this game. It started early with Nene scoring 8 first quarter points as the Cavs interior defense just couldn’t seem to figure out how to slow down the Wizards’ PF. To make matters worse, the Cavaliers also surrendered 15 offensive board to the Wiz leading to 16 second-chance points. The hallmark of Mike Brown’s defense is supposed to be a tough interior defense that limits easy baskets and second-chance opportunities. That aspect certainly wasn’t clicking tonight.
– 31 – The Wizards had 31 assists as a team in this game. The Cavaliers had only 19. It was a stark contrast between the two offenses in this game. The Wizards, despite playing a road game on the back end of a back-to-back, were moving the ball phenomenally well in this game, with players moving off ball and getting into scoring position, and being rewarded for their hard work with good passes that led to easy looks. Meanwhile, despite having 3 days rest, the Cavaliers once again mostly stood around on offense and just watched the guards dribble around with the only off ball movement coming from behind the arc. I know the Cavaliers are focused on installing the new defensive system, and that’s really the most important thing. But at some point the Cavaliers are going to have to implement an offensive systems with some actual sets. You just can’t win basketball games with poor spacing and guys standing around on the wings.
– 18 – Kyrie Irving scored 18 points in the 4th quarter alone as he attempted to put the offense on his back and to help find a way to win this game. With Dellavedova leading the charge on defense with high energy and hustle, it was Kyrie who took over on the other end. The Cavaliers got 6 points in the 4th from Dion and Delly each and Andy chipped in a bucket as well, but it was Kyrie Irving who shot 6-7 from the floor and 5-5 from the FT line to close the gap. The Wizards as a team only scored 18 points in the 4th quarter. It’s a little unfortunate that it took falling down 27 points for the Cavaliers to mount a comeback, but still, Kyrie deserves credit for the offensive explosion in the 4th quarter. It would have been easy to just give up and let this game end up a 30 point loss. It may not mean much as the only thing that counts in the standings is that this was a loss, but when a team is grasping for answers you have to cling to what you can get. Kyrie’s offense and Delly’s defense at least gave the Cavaliers something to build on. Now they have to figure out how to carry this over to the next game Friday in New Orleans.
The Pelicans are playing good basketball this season and Anthony Davis looks every bit the part of a #1 overall pick. Eric Gordon and Jrue Holliday have been pretty good on offense. New Orleans are 9th in offensive efficiency and 18th in defensive efficiency. They are a team that the Cavaliers cannot afford to fall behind against. Coming back against Washington is one thing, but as the Cavaliers now face a tough stretch of games they just have to dig deep and come out playing hard from tip-off to final buzzer. I’m not sure there’s much else to say about it right now.