When it was finally announced that Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams would play in tonight's game against the New York Knicks, it marked the first time all season that the Cavs would be at full strength. No injuries, no more imagination of what this team will look like, and certainly no more excuses.
In those 24 games leading up to tonight, we waited patiently to see the finished product -- a high-powered offense that plow through any defense thrown their way. We wanted to see Kevin Love outlet passes to Kyrie Irving, which would turn into an alley-oop dunk to LeBron James. We wanted J.R. Smith and Mo Williams to reign three-pointers from one corner to the next. Above all else, we wanted to see a team that we've been waiting nearly seven months to see.
What happened against the New York Knicks on a warmer-than-most Dec. 23 night was not what we wanted to see -- it was what we needed to see. Instead of getting the buzzsaw offense that ran roughshod over the league during the second half of last season, we got a stout Cavs' defense that held the Knicks to 12 fourth-quarter points in their 91-84 win, their sixth straight victory overall.
After Knicks' guard Arron Afflalo finished a layup with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter to give the Knicks a one-point lead, the honeymoon was not going according to plan. Shots weren't falling for the Cavs and the opposite was true for the Knicks, and there was a sense that a letdown was in the air just two days before the Cavs heavyweight bout with the Golden State Warriors on Christmas.
However, it was at this moment that we saw what we've seen in the previous 24 games in times like this, when the sheer talent could overcome rough starts, no matter how healthy the Cavs were. Whereas we usually see an offensive explosion during these times, we instead saw a switch turned on on the defense side. Over the next 4:52, the Cavs held the Knicks to just two points.
It was the defense that led to offense for the Cavs. A turnover by the Knicks on one end turned into two free throws by LeBron on the other end. A steal by Matthew Dellavedova turned into a LeBron layup. A missed shot by Afflalo turned into an monstrous dunk by LeBron, a dunk that would give the Cavs a 88-82 with 53.2 second lefts, essentially clinching the game for the Cavs.
The Cavs needed all the defense they could get, as they shot 38.2 percent from the field for the game. It wasn't an ugly game for them, it was a case of just missing shots. They finished with 23 assists and only had seven turnovers, but again it was the shots for them.
Although it wasn't the type of game that we all expected from the Cavs, it was nice to finally see an empty injury report and a team at full strength. As we wait to see how deadly this team can be when everyone is in game shape, with the minor kinks worked, we finally got to see this team on the court, celebrating a win with no one in street clothes.