This season has made Cavs fans change how they watch the game. Nothing is as it seems when the team you root for is just battling to land in the bottom of the standings in hopes of landing a high draft pick. Someone can put up forty points and it means nothing. Even a 25 point game can mean nothing. Someone on the team has to score, and you have to wonder what they’re giving up elsewhere on the floor.
The point: Jordan Clarkson put up 29 points on 12-21 shooting to go with two assists, and five rebounds. He was +10. Rodney Hood got himself 23 points hitting 9-14 and grabbing five boards. He was -8. Collin Sexton had 19 points, but he also had just two assists compared to five turnovers and was -15.
Those guys got “buckets.” That’s easy to see.
Yet, the Cavs didn’t get the win tonight because of them, they won despite them. Fortunately, the Cavs landed back old faithful earlier this week in their trade with the Bucks. Yup, I’m talking about Matthew Dellavedova. Delly put up 15 on 4-7 shooting hitting 3-5 from deep while dishing out three assists. Yet, he was probably the most important Cav this evening. He tied with Larry Nance to be +15 for the outing. Nance also had a great evening handing out seven dimes, grabbing 11 boards, and netting three blocks and three steals.
Towards the end of this game, the Cavs looked like they were going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With 1:43 left to play, the Cavs led 105-99 and Jordan Clarkson ended up taking an ill-advised 19 foot jumper that Kevin Knox of the Knicks blocked. The Knicks ran it down and managed to get two points after Emmanuel Mudiay was fouled. Clarkson blackholed the ball on the following possession, and Knox ended up hitting a 3-pointer after the miss. The following play Alec Burks buried himself under the rack and forced up a shot with the Cavs offense leaning heavily in under the 3-line. The Knicks tipped the ball out and Knox managed to run it down for a dunk to put the Knicks up 106-105.
Just like that, three ill-adivised shots got the Knicks back into things.
Fortunately, Rodney managed to hit a contested turnaround jumper over two defenders after a spin move to give the Cavs the lead again with just 23.7 to go. The Knicks called a timeout and ran a screen play for Mudiay.
This is where having a guy that just knows how to win helped Cleveland out. You know who I’m talking about. Delly drew the Mudiay assignment out of the timeout and fell behind him when he was screened. However, he fought back, and knowing he was on Mudiay’s back, just jumped straight up from behind while Nance contested the shot from the front. Mudiay missed it and the Cavs got the ball back to essentially win the game as the Knicks fouled Cedi Osman to go down 109-106 after the free throws were hit. Nance ripped a steal the next play when Delly shadowed Mudiay’s every move while he desperately tried to inbound the ball. The free throws Delly then hit insured victory.
Early in the evening it didn’t seem like the Cavs were going to need the winning plays of Delly or Nance to get out safe. In the first quarter, the Cavs traded buckets with the Knicks early on. Hood kept Cleveland going scoring 13, hitting two 3s, and getting a nice bucket at the rack after faking out Noah Vonleh. The offense had good looks, they just weren’t falling. Channing Frye missed three wide opens 3s. His spacing did help though. Cleveland didn’t rely on as many mid-range looks as usual.
The Cavs built their lead when the bench checked in. Clarkson and Delly combined for 13. Delly hit both of his 3s. They continually pushed the pace; the ball was zipping around with Nance and Delly running things. Look at the LeBron-esque pass Nance whipped to David Nwaba in the corner for a 3-ball
The Cavs went on a 19-8 run to end the quarter ahead 39-23. Kevin Knox scored ten of his 20 in the first.
The second quarter didn’t go as great, but Clarkson put up 11 and Sexton put up nine to keep the lead from dissolving. Sexton had a couple of tough finishes. Look at this one where Clarkson finds him on the move and he finishes above Mudiay.
Enes Kanter scored nine and was a big part of the Knicks outscoring the Cavs 23-16 in the second part of the action. No one on Cleveland could contain Kanter when he got down low. The doubles just weren’t working. Kanter finished the evening with 20 points on 8-12 shooting. He also had ten boards. The Cavs entered the locker room ahead 65-54.
The Cavs fell apart in the third quarter, when they were outscored 32-21. The Knicks started things out with a 13-2 run to tie it up. They were running and finding a lot of looks before the Cavs defense could get set. The Cavs offense was feeding into this; they weren’t moving the ball well and weren’t hitting anything. It was a lot of one pass and shoot stuff. And, even when their shots were good they weren’t dropping. They took nine 3s. Four of them were ill-advised chucks, but they managed to hit just one of their other five that were open.
The Knicks shot 61% in the quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. had eight. He had 20 for the evening and went 4-9 from deep. Frank Ntilikina had seven of his 16 in this frame. The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 86.
The Knicks and Cavs went back and forth for much of the final frame, but the Cavs seemed to have their mojo back to start with Nance and Delly leading things. Jared Blossomgame opened the action with a dunk. Then Nance found Clarkson for a layup. The Cavs also did a good job defensively holding the Knicks to 32% shooting in the quarter. Clarkson even hit a what should have been the game winner off a Nance screen with 2:27 left to put the Cavs up 105-99. As we know, it wasn’t a winner, but it was a good go ahead bucket, nonetheless.
1.The Cavs let Franky Long Arms and Emmauel Mudiay go off a little bit. Those two certainly aren’t scorers and combined for 32 points and 11 dimes. Knox got 19. Honestly though, those guys hit tough shots and they weren’t super efficient.
2. Enes Kanter put on a clinic at times with his action around the rim. It took the Cavs a little longer than it should have to slow him. He had a very easy 20 points, but the fact that he didn’t score in the fourth says that the Cavs adjusted as the game went on.
3. The Cavs allowed the Knicks to shoot 40.7% from deep for 11 3s. They could have done a better job at running them off the 3-line.
4. Cedi Osman is still struggling. He put up just six points and grabbed five boards. He had two nice drives, but other than that he didn’t do much. His 3-ball isn’t falling right now. He was 0-4 from deep.
1. I’m a Delly guy. I’ve got no shame in admitting it. He played a wonderful game and was huge part of why the Cavs the were able to close this game out tonight.
2.Larry Drew may have stumbled onto something with the bench grouping of Nwaba, Nance, and Delly. They were a team high +14 when they shared the floor this game. The team shot 58.3% during their runs. The ball moved with ease. The team played an NBA level offense.
3. At first, I was skeptical as to why Channing started over Nance, but I think it worked out. His spacing opened up driving lanes for the starters. Sexton had his best quarter at the rim with Frye starting. He wasn’t settling for long twos as often. When Kevin Love returns, we may see a totally different shot profile from Young Bull.
4. The Cavs went 10-34 from beyond the arc. Ten makes isn’t all that good, but taking 34 3s is good. If the Cavs shot 34 3s every night, they would place top ten in the league for attempts. You can only make the 3s you take.
5. The Cavs won the rebounding battle 51-43, which is impressive considering their leading rebounder, Tristan Thompson, is out.
6.The two G-league players that the team picked up, Jalen Jones and Jaron Blossomgame, don’t look like standout players, but they fit in. Both run the floor with or without the ball and have a nose for going to the rack, which is something Larry Drew can work with moving forward.
7. The Cavs face the Bucks on Friday. The Greek Freak will be back, so it will be a really tough game.