Cavs vs Pistons Behind the Box Score: A game-winner for Dion

dion_winner

dion_winner

The Cavaliers were on the road, playing the second night of a back-to-back. For the first three quarters the team more or less played like it. The Cavaliers fell down by 16 points and it looked like that would pretty much be it.

But the Cavaliers got a surprise offensive explosion from Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao was his old rebounding-machine self, and Jarrett Jack had an enormous fourth quarter to lead the Cavaliers back to within striking distance.

The Cavs got a couple huge stops in the final minutes setting up the finale. With the Cavs down four, Jack converted an and-one to bring the Cavs within one with 53 seconds left. After tough defense forced a bad Josh Smith shot, the ball went out of bounds off Delly’s hands, giving the Pistons the ball with 28.5 seconds left. Rather than fouling, Mike Brown chose to trust his defense and Brandon Jennings missed an off balance jumper. Luol Deng grabbed the rebound and the Cavs called a timeout with 3.2 seconds remaining. That set up the real fun stuff.

Once again the Cavaliers found themselves in a critical inbound situation. After the initial Cavs timeout, the Pistons used two consecutive timeouts in a bit of gamesmanship. Then Luol Deng once again couldn’t find anyone open and had to use a timeout of his own to avoid the 5-second call. On their second try, Deng found Dion Waiters cutting to the corner. Dion took a quick dribble, stepped to his left and pulled up for a 19-foot jumper. And he drilled it. The Cavaliers erupted in joy and this team pulled off one of the more improbable victories of the season.

Now lets look at some numbers:

  • 21 – Matthew Dellavedova poured in an impressive 21 points to lead the Cavaliers. It was a career high for the undrafted rookie and he did it on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, including 5-of-7 from three point range. Delly was huge for the Cavs on both ends of the court. Anderson Varejao was +25 and Delly was +24. The only other Cavs on the positive side of the +/- stat were Alonzo Gee (+4) and Waiters (+3). Delly also had six assists and three rebounds in what was easily his best game as an NBA player.
  • 31 to 14 – Through three quarters the Cavs were trailing the Pistons 82-66. This game looked about as over as it could be. The Cavs were shooting 38.5% from the floor and were being outrebounded by a 38-33 margin. But Mike Brown’s small lineup with Andy at the 5, Deng at the 4, and the three guards around the perimeter started an unlikely comeback. The Cavs outscored the Pistons 31 to 14 in the fourth quarter. The Cavs shot 60% in the 4th, including 5-of-10 from three point range. Jarrett Jack had 11 points while Delly and Dion had six each. Andy had 4 rebounds in the quarter as the Cavs outrebounded the Pistons 12-10.
  • 36 – The Pistons are the best team in the NBA at scoring in the point, averaging about 54 points in the paint pet game. Their frontcourt trio of Smith, Monroe, and Drummond are about as formidable as it gets. But the Cavaliers held the Pistons to just 36 points in the paint and were only outscored 36-34 in that category. To have any chance at winning the Cavaliers were going to have to limit the Pistons in the paint and they did just that. What’s even more remarkable is that the Cavaliers did most of their damage in the fourth quarter with the small lineup with Spencer Hawes and Tristan Thompson on the bench. Josh Smith did have 24 points, but he was taking plenty of outside shots and Monroe and Drummond were limited to a combined 20 points.
  • 0-3 – Speaking of Tristan, after having what looked like a bounce back game the previous night, this was another disappointing setback night. Tristan was 0-3 from the field and had just six rebounds. His -16 was second worst on the team, ahead of only Spencer Hawes. Some have suggested that Tristan, who had a busy summer and has played in every single game this season, might be wearing down a bit. There’s probably some truth to that. But it also feels like Tristan has hit a bit of a development wall as well.
  • 18 – One of the problems for the Cavaliers in this game was their stagnant offense. One night after displaying great team basketball, this game featured a lot more isolation basketball. The Cavaliers assisted on just 18 of their 37 FGs. Brandon Jennings alone had 13 assists and Josh Smith’s six assists equaled the most assists of any Cavalier (Dellavedova). Seven of the Cavs’ 18 assists came in the fourth quarter alone, further demonstrating how different this team plays when they move the ball vs trying to play isolation and taking long jumpers.

There was a lot not to like about this game, but none of that is as important as the final outcome. After so many games early in the season where the Cavs either gave up huge leads or simply seemed to give up after falling behind, the Cavaliers have shown a knack for mounting tough comebacks lately. Again, it’s a testament to these players for not giving up and continuing to keep fighting and keep coming back.

And what can we say about Dion Waiters? It’s been a trying season for Dion, but ever since the Chris Grant firing, Dion has owned up to his own shortcomings and has stepped up his game. He deserves to have a moment like tonight, where he hit his first career game winner. With the playoffs all but out of the picture, the Cavaliers continue to show signs of development and that starts with Dion.

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Image source: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

  • Lunch

    “With the playoffs all but out of the picture…..”

    I don’t consider the Cavs being 3.5 games back behind Atlanta for the 8th seed, who lost today mind you, with 9 games left to play in the season, as a team that’s all but out of the playoff picture.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Except that the Cavs would have to go 8-1 if the Hawks just went 5-7.

  • Lunch

    And who says that can’t happen?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Can, sure. But that certainly qualifies as “all but out”.

    Hollinger has them at 2.7% after tonight. Though that’s 50% greater than their shot at the #1 pick. :)

  • Lunch

    2.7% is still a chance. If Hollinger stated a 0% chance because the Cavs have been systematically eliminated from the playoffs, then I probably would have been singing a different tune.

  • Lunch

    Hmm let me check something.,.,

  • Matthew Grant Anson

    Though I don’t actually believe we’ll make the playoffs, remember that game against Orlando when we scored like ten points in the final minute and our win probability was zero and we pulled it out in overtime? Things happen. I don’t think they will, though.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Hey, I’m rooting for them. But it’s not unreasonable to say they’re all but eliminated. If Atlanta is .500 the rest of the way the Cavs can’t lose a game.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    The Lakers were 3 games out of the 8 seed and 3.5 games out of the 7 seed with 24 games to play. They secured the 7 seed on the last day of the season.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Nobody said they don’t have a chance. It’s just very much a long shot.

  • RGB
  • Harv 21

    A few:

    – and that’s why it’s so hard to not like Dion. It’s all about the dog in him, the Philly swag. Even at this level, very few guys long to have the ball in their hand in that situation. You can’t coach that, and the Cavs have 2 of those guys.

    – I never paid attention to Delly in college. Obviously, his floor energy is great. But he already understands what he’s supposed to do with the ball, even if his physical limitations don’t always permit him to do that. I see him having a very nice, long career as a glue guy, maybe a Craig Ehlo-type. He doesn’t play much like a rookie.

    – Haven’t watched a ton of games recently but been a while since I’ve seen Alonzo Gee in pre-contract “give a damn” mode. Last night he was moving without the ball, looking for steals and generally appearing engaged. Who knows why, but it’s nice it’s still possible.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Which swag is best swag, Philly or Aussie? They’re both pretty good swags.

    As for Delly, the most talented players go to college for 1 year (sometimes 2), so they come into the NBA so young in their development. Delly doesn’t play like a rookie because he played 4 years in college. In fact, I believe he even started all 4 years at St Marys. He has tons of experience and backs down from nothing. He has value and I too think he has a long NBA career ahead of him.

  • porckchop

    “After tough defense forced a bad Josh Smith shot,”
    How is one able to discern a bad Josh Smith shot caused by tough defense from the garden variety- aka any shot not taken unconstested at the rim in transition – bad Josh Smith shot?

  • porckchop

    On a serious note I didn’t get to watch the game last night, I saw in the box that Drummond was reasonably held in check. Was that solid defense or did he and Tristan agree to check out of this one together? Usually Drummond’s good for a 18-13 against the Cavs. I may just be using my fan goggles but I feel like our interior D is light years ahead of where it was last year, esp with Andy back

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Haha, touche. That’s a really great point.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I didn’t think Drummond seemed particularly engaged in this game. I can’t really say how much of it was the Cavs’ defense and how much was just him having an off night. But the Cavs’ defense was being pretty active and disruptive in the paint, so it certainly had “some” affect.

  • Harv 21

    Notice that of the 4 Cavs rookies the undrafted one is by far the most productive. It would be so cool if the next trend is for teams to move toward guys who stayed in college ball long enough to understand fundamentals. Maybe if enough of the top of draft freshmen wash out …

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I still find Fred McLoud very very annoying!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Easy fella! ;-) It’s to bad they didn’t play like this a little sooner huh?

  • Lunch

    I did hear that Adam Silver wants to adopt a two and through system for college players. So that may help a little.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t see that happening but it’d be nice. I think you have a better shot at seeing the minimum age increased. Or at least I hope so anyways.

  • Lunch

    I really wanted them to, but I realize that this year was more of a transitional period for the team. Still, I’m very pleased with their progress at this point of the season. So no worries :)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m afraid of whatever it is they are transitioning to if you want to know the truth. This team is schitzo they are not to be trusted. It starts at the top and trickles down. I have no idea for the future which is why I lean towards blowing it up.

  • Steve

    Pelton put up a pretty good article recently demonstrating that guys who leave earlier end up doing better in the NBA. You don’t learn many fundamentals that translate to NBA success by going up against non-conference foes who run 35 second “sets” and throw junk zones at you.

  • woofersus

    That’s true, but to a certain extent that’s because the most talented guys tend to come out earlier. I’d also posit that the same article provides evidence that 4 year players are erroneously assumed to be finished products that won’t improve. I think they sometimes fall too far in the draft because teams tend to draft ceilings. I think sometimes quality players who happened to stay in college for 3 or four years end up being late first round or even second round bargains.

  • Steve

    I’m not sure many people assume that four year players are finished products, and the article makes no mention of them so no positing, but we do know that NBA players tend to peak around 25-26, so those coming into the league at 23 better be at least close to finished products. There’s not much time to keep developing a player.

    And I may not have described his study well enough. Guys who go to the NBA a year out of college improve more than guys who go back for their sophomore years, and “the development advantage disappears by the time both groups are in the NBA. In their third year out of high school — the rookie season for the sophomores and second year for the freshmen — the sophomores actually improve slightly more”

    Players are improving more in their first year in the pros than the guys who stay a year.

  • Wow

    Well besides Indiana it’s not a bad schedule.

  • Pat Leonard

    Indiana hasn’t been playing all that well since they picked up Andrew Bynum. Coincidence? (To be fair, Paul George’s play has come back down to earth and that’s a big part of it. Roy Hibbert too). They’re still a great team, but they just aren’t destroying teams like they were in the first 2/3 of the season.

  • Pat Leonard

    I love him… he has “dad humor”, but that’s part of the appeal for me. Super corny. Super friendly. Austin Carr too.

  • Wow

    I guess I was basing it off of records. They have played Indiana tough all year too.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m still a bitter Michael Reghi supporter. Best thing about Fred is his weather forecasting wife. Hoo-ha!