Most of the time Dion Waiters is usually mentioned in trade rumors the Cleveland Cavaliers are a part of. In the 105-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, he was the number one sidekick to LeBron James and showed once again what a potentially excellent bench this team can have.
The problem with Waiters is the rarity of his dominant performances. After scoring 15.9 points per game last season, he’s averaging just 10 coming off the bench this year, early on David Blatt taking him out of the lineup and inserting Shawn Marion, later Mike Miller, in his place. Waiters finished with 21 points in the win, playing quickly and releasing the ball, whether for a pass or shot without too much hesitation, unlike most nights. It was his third game of 21 points or more this month, and is clearly showing that he’s learning to co-exist in a harsh environment.
But things shouldn’t be so difficult for him. LeBron James, leading the team with 25 points and providing some high flying moments courtesy of assists from Kyrie Irving and Waiters, also added 11 assists, and his first and sometimes second option on offense is finding open players. James attacking the basket almost automatically creates openings for players. The question is whether they’re good enough to take advantage of the situations?
After a long dry spell Kyrie Irving finally looked like a competent basketball player again. He scored 17 points and actually finished with 12 assists. He is often compared to John Wall and criticized for not being a real point guard. Maybe he’s tired of listening to these words, but it possibly has something to do with his attempts to change his game on the bequest of his head coach and the presence of LeBron James.
The third All-Star in this group who isn’t looking like one at all this season is Kevin Love. Love has been changed into a spot up shooter only, hardly getting opportunities to dictate plays and hang on to the ball. Everyone has to make concessions in order to thrive in such a star studded team, but Love seems to be doing it more than anyone else. If he doesn’t mind and it actually helps the team, he’ll probably live well with the adjustment.
Love scored 8 points to go with 8 rebounds, while Anderson Varejao provided the fourth angle of scoring, finishing with 18 points. Most of the time he came off the trailer as the Grizzlies defense, maybe worn out from their recent games, fell for the same tricks and decoys every time. The Cavaliers shot 60.5% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc while a team that looked like the best in the West a week ago has now lost two straight to Eastern teams.
The Grizzlies did get 23 points from Marc Gasol and 16 from Zach Randolph, but it’s hard to win at basketball when you’re shooting just 1-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers not going into their offensive ruts which leads to confidence vaporizing helped as well and have actually been able to hold their opponents on 95 points or less for two consecutive games. If this team figures out how to get consistent contribution from the bench and fortify its defense, the sky is truly the limit.