The Cavs defense comes up clutch once again.
Defense is the calling card for this team. They showed that once again tonight. The Mavs were held to under 100 points in 53 minutes while shooting 40.9%. Dallas was only able to scrounge together 10 points on 3-14 shooting from the field in their final ten minutes.
Evan Mobley was sensational once again. His ability to protect the basket while also switching out to the perimeter to contest threes made it difficult for the Mavs to get anything going offensively. This included suffocating Christian Wood on the final shot of the game after the Mavs were able to gain possession off of a jump-ball.
The ending to Mavs-Cavs was WILD pic.twitter.com/7a2k2Oklre— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 18, 2022
The offense once again left much to be desired down the stretch as they were only able to generate four points in overtime and seven over their final eight minutes. Their defense made sure that didn’t come back to haunt them.
The Cavs couldn’t hit anything outside the paint, including free throws.
Cleveland and Dallas appeared to have heavy legs on what was the second night of a back-to-back for both. The Cavs finished the game 10-43 (23.3%) on shots outside the paint which included going 7-36 (19.4%) from beyond the arc.
The poor shooting extended to the free-throw line as they were only able to knock down 13-22 (59.1%) from the charity stripe.
J.B. Bickerstaff keeps getting Jarrett Allen the ball in late game situations.
The Cavs found themselves with the ball up one with 22 seconds left in regulation. Bickerstaff called a timeout to set up a frontcourt ATO. Bickerstaff had Allen in the backcourt as the release valve in case they couldn’t get the ball into one of the guards. Allen got the ball after the initial action was snuffed out which sent him to the free-throw line. He split the pair which allowed Kemba Walker to send the game to OT.
This isn’t something new we’ve seen from Bickerstaff. Allen has been the break glass in case of emergency option for the Cavs in these situations throughout the season. Predictably, they haven’t gone well.
Against the Charlotte Hornets last month he missed one of his free-throws after being fouled late in the backcourt. He got the ball after an ATO the following possession which resulted in a turnover that led to Charlotte forcing overtime.
Bickerstaff isn’t putting his players in the best position to succeed late in games. This is especially true for Allen who is a career 70.2% free-throw shooter.
They simply need to do a better job of getting the ball into the hands of their best shooters in these situations. You don’t often see other teams allow their seven-foot rim protector be in a position to win or lose the game at the line if they can help it. There’s no need for the Cavs to either.
The Cavs let Kemba Walker beat them repeatedly.
Dallas came into this one without Luka Dončić, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dwight Powell who all started in their win Friday evening against the Portland Trail Blazers. This was one Dallas seemed willing to accept as a scheduled loss.
The Cavs started out like that was the case, but the remaining Maverick players didn’t. Walker, who was out of the NBA until three weeks ago, torched the Cavs most of the evening. He was able to get wherever he wanted on the floor as he finished with a game-high 26 points on 12-25 shooting with 7 assists. Nineteen of those came in the first half.
The defense was great on the evening. But, you can’t let a fringe NBA player beat you like this. Kemba going off in the first half allowed Dallas to seize a 10 point second half advantage. This contest isn’t close if they come out with the intensity they needed to on Walker.
The Cavs are making a habit of coming from behind.
Cleveland was able to erase a double-digit second half deficit on back-to-back nights. Clutch shot-making from Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Mobley at the close regulation combined with stellar defense allowed them to do that again here.
Mitchell scored 9 points on 3-7 shooting in the final frame before being called for a questionable push off on what would’ve been a game-winning attempt at the end of regulation. Garland contributed 6 clutch points in the fourth which included a floater to give the Cavs their first lead of the second half.
Mobley was however the story of the comeback. Ten of his 17 points came in the fourth. He knocked down a three at the end of the shot clock and a turnaround fadeaway on consecutive possessions in the closing minutes which put the Cavs in a position to put the game away. The Cavs don’t win this one without his sensational play on both sides of the ball.
It’s great to see J.R. Smith get a hero's welcome.
Smith and the Cavs didn’t end their relationship on the best terms. He was sent away from the team shortly into the 2018-19 season and the front office wasn’t able to find a trade for him. This essentially ended his time in the NBA as Smith only played 18 more games, including the playoffs, in his career.
Only Smith is able to say whether all has been forgiven. But it was heartwarming to see him him back in the building for the first time since after spending the afternoon with the Browns. He received the reception he deserved from both venues.
A standing ovation for J.R. Smith in Cleveland ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6IfmRUDeVx— NBA (@NBA) December 18, 2022
Smith will always be a Cavalier legend. He fit in perfectly with the starting lineup that played the Golden State Warriors’ Death Lineup off the floor. The Cavs don’t win the championship or go to four straight Finals without his contributions.
Things have been rocky to say the least with a couple of the key contributors of the championship roster. Seeing Smith succeed in life after basketball while seemingly making amends with his former franchise is great to see.
They can’t put number 5 in the rafters fast enough.
Up next: The Cavs will welcome Lauri Markkanen and the Utah Jazz to town on Monday night. Tip-off is at 7 PM.