AUBURN HILLS, MICH.: Twenty-three thoughts following a dramatic 97-96 come-from-behind win over the Pistons…
1. Inbounds plays have been terrifying at times this season for this team, but Mike Brown made the proper adjustment Wednesday and Dion Waiters made a huge shot.
2. The Pistons burned their final two timeouts prior to the Cavs’ game winner, but Brown kept the play the same. Then when Luol Deng had trouble getting the ball inbounded, he was forced to take the Cavs’ final timeout and then Brown tweaked the play.
3. Josh Smith was guarding Deng on the inbound and was shaded toward the top of the floor, leaving the corner wide open. So Brown changed the play for Waiters to fake a screen and get to the corner. Brown knew 3.2 seconds was enough time for Waiters to catch it at the 3-point line and either make a move or shoot it.
4. Brown initially wanted Waiters to drive and try to draw a foul from Rodney Stuckey since the Cavs were in the bonus, but said he knew once Waiters shot it the ball was going in. Even though, of course, Waiters was 7-for-19 before making the game winner.
5. “I just felt it was going to go in because that’s who he is. That’s what he does,” Brown said. “It was great to see him make that shot. It was great to see the team run out the way they did. You can tell these games still mean something for them and the togetherness that we’re having during this stretch is a lot of fun to be around.”
6. It’s hard to believe this is the same team that was embarrassed on national television against the Knicks and lost at home to the hapless Lakers. That team looked like it had given up on the season. This team is still fighting.
7. Waiters’ final shot was so dramatic that Brown charged over to the scorer’s table and began giving high fives to Fox Sports Ohio’s Fred McLeod and Austin Carr. Bob Finnan, who covers the Cavs for the Lake County News-Herald, shouted “Woah!” Brian Dulik, who writes Cavs content for NBA.com, smacked my shoulder out of disbelief. We were all stunned.
8. Dulik quickly repositioned himself outside the Cavs locker room and said it sounded as if they’d just won the Finals. Players were roaring and cheering in the locker room, and the roars and cheers grew louder every time another player entered. This team is enjoying this unexpected ride regardless how long it lasts.
9. Waiters, for his part, never loses confidence in his shot. He rarely gets these types of opportunities because the ball is always in Kyrie Irving’s hands when he’s healthy, but with Irving out, Waiters got his big chance and capitalized.
10. “Those are the shots you’re always practicing in your head when you’re in the gym by yourself,” Waiters said. “You’re always thinking about a game like that, always thinking about a game winner. Then when the time comes, are you going to be ready? My time was tonight.”
11. The Cavs owe a big part of this victory to the heckler who inspired Jarrett Jack. When Jack entered the game in the fourth quarter, a Pistons fan began shouting how Jack is a terrible shooter and has always been a terrible shooter. Jack looked up and engaged him (the Pistons were shooting free throws), telling him he needed a seat closer to the floor.
12. On the Cavs’ next possession, Deng found Jack at the 3-point line and he made the 3, then immediately turned and looked at the fan. Jack was 3-for-9 through the first three quarters, then shot 4-for-6 in the fourth quarter and scored 11 points.
13. “He got me going,” Jack said of the fan. “I told some of their guys it’s the old dude’s fault I caught fire a little bit. He got my attention and woke me up. Whoever he is, I definitely want to say thanks.”
14. Pistons crowds are always sparse, so hecklers are easy to hear, particularly those sitting close to the court. Plus Jack conceded he hears everything and often engages the fans.
15. “I’m very immature so I respond all the time,” he joked. “It’s always fun. I always interact with the fans but I try not to let it take away from my focus.”
16. Anderson Varejao and Matthew Dellavedova were huge off the bench. Delly set a career high with 21 points and Varejao had 12 points and 16 rebounds. The fact Varejao is still upright given all his back problems is quite impressive.
17. Varejao has needed two cortisone shots in his back since returning, he confirmed, but said his back feels good now. Brown looks back at that previous stretch when the Cavs had to play the Raptors twice, the Grizzlies and the Wizards while Varejao was ailing. Brown believes having Varejao could’ve made a big difference in those games, but the Cavs lost them all.
18. As for Delly, Brown was so excited with his defensive tenacity that he hugged him during a timeout in the first half after the Cavs forced a five-second call because the Pistons couldn’t get the ball inbounded. Delly shot 5-for-7 on 3-pointers Wednesday, which has been a focus of his since last summer.
19. “I can’t say enough about Delly. He’s just a tough, tough son of a gun,” Brown said. “I’ll take him on my team anywhere, anytime, any place. He changed the game for us.”
20. I counted the Cavs out of the playoff race long ago, but they still have a pulse, no matter how faint. The Hawks lost again Wednesday, pulling the Cavs within 3.5 games of the final playoff spot with nine to go. It’s long odds certainly, but the Hawks can’t seem to get out of their own way lately and the two teams still have one meeting left next weekend that is suddenly looking like it could be a fairly important game.
21. “You’re not out until you’re out, but for me I’m just concentrating on, ‘Let’s win the next game,’” Brown said. “If we don’t win it, let’s try to play the right way and leave it on the floor.”
22. Added Jack: “I don’t give up looking at (the standings), I just don’t focus on them as much. You kind of always got in your head what the other teams are doing,” Jack said. “Let’s just play and let the chips fall where they may and see what happens. It doesn’t matter if we don’t take care of our business. If we don’t come in here and fight and scrap and get these W’s by any means necessary, then what the other teams are doing doesn’t mean much.”
23. Next up for the Cavs is a Nets team playing much better of late. The Cavs almost have to win out to have any shot at stealing the eighth seed. Talk to you Friday from Brooklyn.