Defense is what the Cavaliers are known for. Defense is what will propel the Cavaliers to a championship if they are going to win one. Tonight they had just enough of it at the right time to beat the Toronto Raptors 126-118 in overtime, the third straight win for the Cavaliers after losing three straight. It was a struggle at times, especially after Anderson Varejao fouled out with two minutes to go, but the Cavs held Toronto to 1-for-8 shooting in the extra session, outscoring Toronto 15-7.
Toronto is a pesky bunch that always seems to give the Cavaliers a tough time. Even without Chris Bosh, tonight was no exception. How does it happen? For the Raptors it was getting production from unlikely sources. Reggie Evans and Sonny Weems combine to average just over 8 points per game this season. Tonight, they combined to score 24 points on 9-15 shooting. Jarrett Jack also had a field day, scoring 24 points. In the end, though, it was the Cavaliers that made the plays that needed to be made.
LeBron James, battered and bruised, scored 36 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 9 assists. James, hobbled by a knee to the thigh early in the game, forced overtime with 13 seconds to go with a hard drive to the basket that tied the game at 111. As we often say about James, he can get to the basket at will - sometimes he doesn't do it enough - tonight was an exception. LeBron attacked, he got to the foul line, and most importantly hit his free throws. LeBron was 15/16 at the line, which set the tone for the team. It was the difference in the game, in a lot of ways. If the Cavs struggle at the line, which they often do, they lose to the Raptors. At 31/36(86%), it was enough to get the win.
Mo Williams continued the resurgence he started in Boston with 22 points. His back-to-back 3s to start overtime got the Cavs going and they never looked back. Antawn Jamison is looking more comfortable as well, securing his first double-double(22 and 11).
"We're just happy we got the win." said Mike Brown, who knows that there will be games like this in the NBA. "We were fortunate to get the win."
Perhaps most impressive about this win is how the Cavaliers did it with Anderson Varejao in foul trouble most of the night. Andy average about 30 minutes a game but was forced to sit large chunks of the game, including the entire OT, with foul trouble. Andy finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds in just 23 minutes.
There is plenty of time to stress about the defense, or the rotations(Where is Daniel Gibson), but all that matters in February is wins. After 60 games, no one has done that more than the Cavaliers and they seem to have gotten it together again after a post All-Star Game hiccup. While we, as fans, look for every imperfection, take heart in the fact that the Cavaliers are really, really good and a game like tonight proved it once again.
Up next for Cleveland, a quick stop at home for the New York Knicks on Monday Night.