The Cavs played dead for a half and waited until the Knicks had amassed a 15 point half-time lead before putting on a shooting clinic in the 2nd half, converting 23 of 30 shots (!!) and putting a hurting on the Knicks playoff hopes. Jarrett Jack sliced and diced his way over, under, around, and through the Knicks en route to 31 points and 10 assists on 13 of 19 shooting, including the dagger in the final 30 seconds.
Both teams were pretty content to take jumpers. The Knicks made more, and neither team was playing very aggressive D. Just typical man on man slightly sagging D that has become a staple of the Cavs Defense until Delly and Varejao check in. The Knicks shot 70% in the first quarter, scored 34 points, and really seemed to be going through the motions. Waiters and Jack had the mid-range J going and combined for 16 of the Cavs 27 points in the 1st quarter. Tristan Thompson got blocked by Melo going for a pop shot, the shot he takes in order to avoid getting blocked at the rim.
The Cavs started the 2nd quarter unable to get anything going. The Knicks ratcheted up the D and the Cavs isolation plays started becoming more difficult to convert. Alonzo Gee scored the only 7 points the Cavs had through the first 6 minutes of the quarter. The Knicks started raining down 3s and went up by as much as 17. Waiters made a lot of deep jumpers in the first half, and finished with 15 points on 6-11 shooting. The Cavs had just 6 assists as their offense was generally one pass, isolation, shot. TT got blocked by Melo going for a pop shot, the shot he takes in order to avoid getting blocked at the rim. I didn’t copy and paste that from the 1st quarter, I re-wrote it, pounding words out on my keyboard is cathartic. The Knicks finished the half 8-12 from 3 point land and the Cavs somehow shot 50% despite shooting mostly 17 foot jumpers from the left wing. Jack had 5 of the Cavs 6 assists.
The Cavs exploded out of the gate, scoring the first 9 points of the quarter. The Knicks started jacking out of rhythm 2s and the Cavs just attacked at every opportunity. I wonder if Mike Brown shamed the Cavs with the shot chart above because their first 10 shots of the quarter were like this.
The Knicks were fortunate to keep their advantage as their offensive flow completely evaporated and they obliged to shoot out-of-rhythm 3s. Nine of their first 12 shots were 3s, and they made four of them. The Knicks started tightening the screws near the end of the 3rd and the Cavs had trouble getting Waiters into the teeth. The Cavs cut lead the lead to as little as three but the Knicks kept them at arms length. The quarter ended with the Cavs down seven. Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters combined for 15-27 through 3 quarters with 9 assists and just 2 turnovers.
WHOA. The Cavs made their first EIGHT shots and didn’t miss until 4:30 left in the quarter. Un-be-lievable. Everyone got in on the action, they were getting layups, teardrops, and Jarrett Jack was launching heat seeking missiles at the middle of the net. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL YEAR JJ?! He was electric, crossing people over, draining those rainbow 2s where the net barely shivers as the ball splashes through, like those 12-year-old Chinese divers at the Olympics. The Cavs just BLITZED the Knicks to start the 4th and took their first lead of the game when Luol Deng swished a wide open 3 with 5:45 to go. After that, it was all Jack, and the Knicks couldn’t stop him. The Knicks kept it close, as Melo got a phantom foul call on the perimeter and drained both freebies. But Jarrett Jack hit a TOUGH fallaway jumper with 24 seconds left to put the Cavs lead at 4. On the next possession, Car-ofcoursehe’samaxplayer-melo ran over Anderson Varejao and the Knicks’ were vanquished, their playoff hopes slayed by Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters.
-The Cavs shot 77% in the second half. They were 23 of 30 from the field. That is insane. Jack, Waiters, Delly, Deng, Gee, Varejao…the Cavs went small, the Knicks countered by…yep, shooting out-of-rhythm isolation 2s. They played right into the Cavs hands. Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire took a combined 4 shots in the 2nd half.
-Alonzo Gee in small doses. I’m not really sure why Gee seems to get torched so often. I’m not a perceptive enough bball mind to get why his effort and athleticism doesn’t translate into being a defensive stopper. At any rate, he has finally emerged from the end of the bench in recent weeks (injuries to Irving, Miles, Deng, and Bennett will do that) and he’s been pretty decent. He’s attacking the rim, taking good shots, and grabbing some contested rebounds in traffic. His offensive ratings in February and March are 107 and 109 respectively. That’s respectable. Tonight he was 4-6 from the field.
-Anderson Varejao is still GOOD. I’m glad the Cavs have limited Varejao’s minutes even in Bennett’s absence. I know they have prioritized winning and making the playoffs but I’m glad it hasn’t been at the cost of Varejao’s long term health. He’s been very effective all season (once again) and it’s rewarding to see what he can do in 20-30 minute intervals. The charge he took in the final seconds sealed the game.
-Delly’s floater. Half of them come awkwardly off the wrong leg but he’s been pretty effective going to the basket. He’s shooting above 50% in the paint.
-Delly’s full court defense. Most of the Cavs hate playing harrassing D. Maybe they are worried they will get burned, or maybe they don’t have the energy. Delly loves to put pressure on the ball handler at all times. It leads to turnovers and speeds up the opponent a bit, which often causes rushed shots or unforced errors. His transition D is also notable. Tonight he intercepted a pass on a Knicks 4-2 fast break when the Knicks were trying to muster some momentum. It was a HUGE save.
-Aggressive Jarrett Jack. All season long I’ve lamented Jack’s passive approach to offense. He would refuse to shoot open 3s, and spend most of his possessions pump faking, taking 2 dribbles, and then either taking a contested shot or just weakly passing back out to the perimeter. Lately he’s been much more assertive. Maybe his nagging hernia is gone (or whatever he had). He’s not afraid to put the ball on the floor now and drop in a teardrop. He’s pushing the ball in transition and taking over the role of primary play-maker with pretty good results. His dish to Varejao late in the 4th quarter as gorgeous. Lately we’ve been seeing the Jack we thought we were getting in free agency. Tonight he was the best player on the court. A court shared by Carmelo Anthony. He’s not going to light it up from the outside every night, but his approach should be like it was tonight. Aggressive, probing, constantly moving, attacking the teeth, and not afraid to fire away from 3! He’s been so hesitant all year to take open 3s. It’s like he doesn’t look at his own stats! Incredible game for Jack, and one that should make us all feel better about his contract.
-Dion’s rainbow touch. Dion drained a couple corner 3s tonight but is by and large taking way too many long jumpers. Here’s the thing though, he’s making enough of them that it’s not crippling the Cavs. He has proven that he HAS to be taken seriously from anywhere on the court. He will start splashing threes if you sag off him. So while he’s certainly not the bastion of efficiency, he seems to have the foundational skills for someone who could continue to get better. Players with broken jumpers need to fix them or forever be liabilities on offense. Dion’s is getting better and better. I’m a little concerned that he’s not a much of a leaper as we thought out of college because he still struggles around the rim, but once he learns how to shield defenders with his body, how to flop, and actually starts getting some respect from the refs, he could become a more permanent #2 scorer. I’ve been very impressed with his approach to the game since Kyrie went down. He’s been much more calm than I expected (I expected some serious YOLO action) and even though he’s forcing from time to time he’s making plays. He’s averaging 19 points and 4 assists per game in March – I think we’ll take it, right guys?
The Cavs settled for way too many long 2s in the 1st half. But maybe this is secretly a good thing because they infected the Knicks with this lazy offensive execution in the 2nd half. Nice bait and switch, Cavs.
Tristan Thompson isolated on the left block….doesn’t work. Tristan should be setting picks, moving bodies, flying in from the weak side for rebounds and put backs, and being active to make up for his undersized-ness. Instead, he’s calling for the ball on the left block, isolated, and his move to the basket is the same every time. He puts the ball on the floor with his right hand, lowers his shoulder to try to create space, and then pulls up for a 5 foot hook shot. Tonight he tried it twice and Melo (not Chandler) blocked it both times. It’s way too predictable. You can’t be a one-trick-pony if THAT is your trick. I’m not sure what happened to the Tristan that started developing all these counters and had the 15 foot floater/jumper. It almost seems like he’s mentally losing patience and just trying to will the ball in. It’s not working, and it’s hurting the Cavs.