The Cavs had played with energy all night and put themselves in position to win. An 11 point lead in the fourth quarter, and a defensive effort that had slowed down just about every Brooklyn Net. Even D’Angelo Russell’s 30 points came on 31 shots. But of course, things got tight late. Questionable rebounding and empty possessions led to a tie ball game and Cavs ball. Cleveland put the ball in hands of Alec Burks and removed star Tristan Thompson, who had dominated all game. It was a curious move — Burks came here within the last week. Everything was cleared out, and Burks beat his man off a spin dribble. Help couldn’t get there fast enough, and Burks slammed a jam home to give the Cavs a lead with three seconds left. A strong contest from a re-inserted Tristan Thompson led to a missed jumper from Spencer Dinwiddie, and the Cavs had won.
The Cavs are playing against their offensive limitations every game they play. They attempted 15 three pointers in this game, and made just four of them. To win a game in today’s NBA with those numbers, and just 20 free throw attempts (they made 19 of them, and each one was crucial) is pretty impressive. In short, and without becoming a broken record, the Cavs offensive limitations are system-based, but the system is simply playing into what the players want to do. Jordan Clarkson wants to get a switch on a big so that he can take a jumper with his foot on the three point line. He’s comfortable with that. Collin Sexton is similar. Rodney Hood wants the midrange. Larry Nance, Thompson, and Burks want to get to the rim, where efficiency is a bit easier.
If they want to win, then, like they did tonight, rebounding and defense will have to become calling cards. Thompson set the tone in both areas, and finished with 19 points on 11 shots, 14 rebounds, two blocks and two assists. He’s embracing the leader role more and more every day and deserves commendation. I’d like to see Channing Frye get some time so that the Cavs can find some more shooting. But for now Nance and Thompson are the team’s two centers.
Clarkson almost gave the game away late with some of those empty possessions, but credit is due for his first half and energy. He was more efficient in the first half, and ended up with 11 rebounds to go with his 20 points and four assists. Collin Sexton struggled in the second half as well, but that happens when you’re 19. In the meantime, the Cavs are finding a way to work and get some positive results. Take the fun when you can. We’ll worry about the ping pong balls soon enough.