It was a scene that we've all seen many times. The script was all too familiar to the Cavalier faithful. Down by one point, Mo Williams easily made his way into the paint and he flipped up a floater. This is a shot that he has taken countless times and makes more often than not. The ball rolled around the rim, went down, defied the law of gravity and flew out. It fell right into the hands of a member of the Utah Jazz before slipping out of bounds. The game was over despite the fact that Mo Williams still had another missed three pointer in him. Not only was the law of gravity defied, but Lawler's law was as well. Despite having a 101-95 lead with 1:47 remaining in the game, the Jazz gave up a 9-0 run to end the game and left the court stunned.
This was a much needed win for the Cavaliers. They have had some tough losses lately. The Cavs rallied in Miami and lost, gave up a game winning shot to the Spurs and lost a 22 point first half lead in a loss to the Knicks on Monday. The Cavs have had their fair share of late-game success this year, but the timing of this come-from-behind win against the Jazz couldn't have been better.
The Cavs looked rusty throughout most of the game. It is difficult to quantify why, but they simply looked a step slow and as if they were not giving great effort. Kyrie Irving is Cleveland's best player, but he did not play like it for much of the game. He spent the first three quarters deferring to his inferior teammates. With Dion Waiters out with the flu, this was not the night for Irving to be deferring to the likes of Alonzo Gee, Tyler Zeller and Shaun Livingston.
The game would have probably gone the way of the Utah Jazz had Irving and CJ Miles not played very well in the final 12 minutes. Miles scored 12 points in that stretch. It's possible that Miles wanted to perform well against his old team. Whatever the motivation, it was more than welcome.
The win was not an easy one for Cleveland. They had to survive 25 points from Gordon Hayward. The bench for the Jazz was incredible. Three players combined for 56 points. It would have probably been higher had Al Jefferson played. Byron Scott said before the game that the Cavs would need "Tabasco sauce and gun powder" to combat the Jazz big man rotation. Tristan Thompson, Marreese Speights and (to less of an extent)Tyler Zeller not only did that, but they arguably outplayed them. The Jazz scored 42 points in the paint compared to Cleveland who had 48.
In addition to not letting the game slip because of their bench play, the Cavs had to survive Randy Foye's shooting in the third quarter. He scored 11 points and made three consecutive three point shots in a quick stretch. It felt as if the game was going to be lost at that moment, but Cleveland fans should know better to not count out Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter.
I may be looking at this game from too broad of a perspective, but I believe it shows what a long way the franchise has come. Mo Williams was a great addition to the Cavs and he was criminally underrated by many people. He appeared to love playing in Cleveland and made the most of his time with the franchise. The Cavs became infinitely more entertaining and better after he was traded by the Bucks in a salary dump in August of 2008. Having said that, the good Mo Williams memories are completely different from those which were bad. To say that Williams struggled in the playoffs would be an understatement. On the other hand, Kyrie Irving is being celebrated nationally for his ability to come through in the clutch. Mo Williams tended to shrink when the moment needed him to come up big and Kyrie Irving becomes a better player in that same time. The fact that the Cavs were able to get Kyrie Irving as a result of trading Mo Williams makes it all that much better. Mo Williams missed all of his field goals in the 4th quarter and scored zero points. Kyrie Irving scored 11 points on 7 shots in the same time frame.
The great thing about this win is that it helped bring the Lakers within 1.5 games of the 8th and final playoff spot in the west. In addition, the Cavs matched their win total from the 2011-2012 campaign with 5 fewer games. It took some calls that went Cleveland's way, some 50/50 balls that did the same thing and for much-improved execution down the stretch for it to happen. The next game is on Friday in Cleveland against the Memphis Grizzlies. Tipoff is at 7:30.