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.
There are ugly games in the NBA. Teams have ugly wins. Then you have whatever this game was. With Kyrie Irving sitting out with a bruised left knee, the Cavaliers played one of the worst basketball games I have ever seen. Thankfully, they played the Orlando Magic.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the first 3.9 quarters of this game. Both teams took turns trying to out-lose each other, but in the final minute of the game, the Magic appeared to have a comfortable 79-70 lead. In the final minute, all kinds of crazy would break out.
Dion Waiters got things started by hitting a pair of FTs. After an Arron Afflalo miss, Jarrett Jack was fouled on a three-point attempt and would make all 3 free throws. Orlando would then get called for a 5 second violation trying to inbound the ball. Dion would make layup to bring the Cavs within two at 79-77 with 10 seconds left. The Cavs fouled E’Twaun Moore to send him to the line with 9 seconds left. Moore would miss both free throws and on the 2nd miss, the Magic knocked the ball out of bounds to give the ball back to the Cavs. Dion then completed a nice drive to the basket to tie the game with 0.6 seconds left and the game would go to overtime.
In overtime, the Magic could only manage 2 points, going scoreless over the final 3:19 of the game, and the Cavaliers pulled away to come up with an unexpected 87-81 win. For most of this game it felt like the Cavaliers were hitting rock bottom. It was offensive to the game of basketball, and it really said a lot about the construction of this team outside of Kyrie Irving. But credit to guys like Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Dion Waiters who all made huge plays at different points and found a way to come up with a win.
Now let’s get into the mostly ugly numbers…
- 25 – There’s really no other place to start than with Anderson Varejao’s 25 rebounds. Andy finished the game with 18 points, 25 rebounds (8 offensive), 3 assists, and 1 block. He played like a man possessed and came up with so many big plays when nobody else seemed to be doing anything. Andy’s previous career high was 23 rebounds and the Cavaliers team record is 25, a record Andy now shares with Rick Roberson.
- 38.1% and 34.4% – The Magic shot 38.1% from the field and the Cavaliers shot 34.4% from the field. I don’t know what the NBA record is for worst combined shooting in a game, but it’s really hard to imagine two teams playing much worse on offense than these teams played in this game. Both teams had pretty even scoring distribution, with 4 of the 5 starters for both teams finishing in double digit scoring. But overall, the points were hard to come by. Andy led all scorers with 18 points, with Dion adding 17 off the bench. Glen Davis had 16 points to lead the Magic.
- 16 and 10 – It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest game for Tristan Thompson, but he did manage to finish with 16 points and 10 rebounds for another double-double. Tristan still needs an awful lot of work on his game, but somehow he shows moments where he makes a big play.
- 6 of 20 – I don’t want to be too hard on Dion Waiters. He played really hard, showed some good defense and hustle down the stretch, made free throws and came up with big drives down the stretch for the Cavaliers. But in a game where you expected him to pick up Kyrie’s slack, Dion was just woeful from the field, going 6 for 20. Through three quarters he showed some of his bad habits, including some pretty questionable shot selection.
- 0 – Not that it’s surprising anymore, but Anthony Bennett went 0 for 4 from the field in 11 minutes for 0 points along with 3 fouls and 2 turnovers. The Anthony Bennett experiment simply isn’t working. The young rookie isn’t developing whatsoever and every time he puts a couple plays or games together where you think maybe he’s improving, he takes about 5 steps back. His confidence is shattered and his body language is just all wrong. The guy is lost and the Cavaliers need to rethink their strategy. It’s probably time to send Anthony to the D-League and let him play more minutes and rediscover his confidence.
There’s really not much more to say about this game. It was ugly, embarrassing, frustrating, and ultimately, exciting. There shouldn’t be much satisfaction gained from beating the Magic at home, but still, the reality is the Cavaliers had an imposing deficit and no Kyrie Irving to rescue them. But they found a way to work hard and get back into the game and with a little luck, they forced overtime and secured the win. The Cavaliers have lost so many frustrating games where they’ve had a chance down the stretch and couldn’t get it done. It’s nice for once to win one of these games, no matter what the circumstances or who the opponent was. Take it for what its worth.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images