This is the most emphatic dagger to end a game that you might ever see, courtesy Dion Waiters…
THE DION WAITERS DUNK VINE
(Steve Noah/Operation Sports and also Fox Sports Ohio)
Dion Waiters heroic performance Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies made it two convincing wins in a row for the Cavaliers. A slow, plodding offense coupled with a defense that forced Memphis into difficult shots through regulation resulted in the Cavaliers being in position for a vintage “win ugly” Mike Brown victory in overtime. And the Cavaliers took advantage, winning 91-83.
It is a transitional period for the Cavaliers, with the shift of General Managing power moving last weekend from the dispossessed Chris Grant to Assistant GM David Griffin. However, Mike Brown’s defensive game planning, the kind that has allowed Cavaliers teams to stay in ballgames despite poor offensive showings, literally won another game. At the end of regulation, this score was tied 78-78. This was in no small part due to the physical efforts of Anderson Varejao, who likely left this game as a human bruise after being pushed, bounced and banged around the paint by Grizzlies Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
And then Dion Waiters happened. And it was beautiful. Waiters was on the ball on offense in overtime, with Irving playing off the ball on the left wing. It was a departure from the overtime games earlier in the season, which largely centered around Kyrie Irving handling the ball and the rest of the offense situated in a flat four formation, up against the baseline. Irving would call for a pick from Varejao, which he would sometimes use, then either driving or pulling up a jumpshot.
This isn’t an either/or situation. Waiters and Irving were there last night, playing together, playing at the same time, switching off roles and winning a game. They can play together and it can work. And when it does, it’s incredible. Irving had 28 points and 6 assists. Waiters had 18 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds. The Cavs need these gentlemen to have more of these kind of games at the same time.
Irving’s memorable quote after the game, calling Waiters “a good friend” and saying that the game was easier when Waiters was on the court with him said so much. It essentially called into question virtually every characterization of the Cavaliers first 60 games of the season with respect to the two guards. In particular, those assessments which were highly critical of Waiters or Irving, that alleged that they could not play on the floor or even on the same roster at the same time. But maybe no narrative was more thoroughly defeated last night than the one claiming that Waiters should be traded away before the upcoming trade deadline.
Perhaps this was an end to all these notions. Or at least the beginning of an end. Because if they can do this regularly, the Cavaliers will be a different team without making any roster moves.
OVERTIME IS WAY MORE FUN THIS SEASON FOR THE CAVALIERS
FOR EXAMPLE, ANDERSON VAREJAO HAD 25 REBOUNDS IN AN OVERTIME GAME JANUARY 2
(David Liam Kyle NBAE/Getty Images)
Even before the game against Memphis concluded, the Cavs had been involved in 7 overtime games this season. Since Irving was drafted in June 2011, the Cavaliers had not won an overtime game until this season, where they now stand 5-2.
In 2012-13 they played only one, a double overtime home game against Portland December 1, 2012, which ended badly for the Cavaliers when Nicholas Batum hit a devastating go ahead 3 point jump shot with 0.2 seconds left.
In the 2011-12 lockout shortened season, the Cavaliers played 5 overtime games, and lost all of them, including a heartbreaking 102-103 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on March 21, 2012 when a Irving last second jumper bounced away, and a putback attempt by Alonzo Gee refused to fall.
In fact, coming in to this season, the Cavaliers had not won an overtime game since a certain losing 26 game losing streak got broken on February 11, 2011, when JJ Hickson reached up and swatted away a short jumper by Baron Davis to seal a Cavaliers victory.
The last Cavaliers team to play as many as 7 overtime games in a single season was the 2006-07 Eastern Conference Champion squad. That team went 3-4 in overtime games in the regular season. So no matter what happens, the 2013-14 Cavs will always have the advantage in that singular category against the only Cavs team to make it to the NBA Finals (for purposes of which I did not include a certain playoff game against the Detroit Pistons in Detroit which went into double overtime and which the Cavaliers famously won on May 31, 2007. Somehow, only one Cavalier scored in either overtime period (It was not Scot Pollard).).
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So I had to check. The only other team in Cavaliers history that won 5 games in overtime was the 1994-95 team. You better believe that Tyrone Hill racked up some serious rebound totals in those. The Cavaliers were 5-2 in overtime that season, the same record as the current team.
Strange is that the Cavaliers are now 18-33 total this season. The 1994-95 team won 43 games and lost in the playoffs to the Knicks. The current Cavs have a .714 winning percentage in overtime games, but a .295 winning percentage in regulation games. This means that if the Cavaliers could win at the clip they're winning in overtime, they'd be a 58 win team this season.