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Cavs’ first extended experiment using three guards at once a relative success in win over Sixers

By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer

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CLEVELAND: Of all the players on the Cavaliers roster, Jarrett Jack has the most experience with a three-guard attack after spending last season alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson with the Golden State Warriors.

When Jack walks out on the floor now alongside Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, he views it as a stable of running backs.

“One guy can penetrate, another guy can stretch the floor and another guy can penetrate,” he said. “It’s guys coming at you in waves. It’s like a football team with three running backs. They’ve got one guy who breaks a long run, then they substitute another fresh guy in. That’s tough for a defense to have to deal with.”

Earl Clark is out of the Cavs’ starting lineup and Alonzo Gee is in, but in the critical moments of Saturday’s double-overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers, coach Mike Brown alleviated his small forward conundrum by simply playing his three guards with his two bigs.

Brown had wanted to see what Irving, Jack and Waiters would look like together all along, but the matchups didn’t fit through the first handful of games. He tried it briefly during Friday’s disappointing loss at Philadelphia, then committed to playing the three together big minutes on Saturday.

The three guards played most of the fourth quarter and both overtime sessions together. Irving finished with 39 points and a career-high 12 assists, Waiters had 24 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals and Jack had 20 points, five assists and three steals off the bench. Both Waiters and Jack had season-highs in points, while Waiters and Irving have now combined to score at least 50 points in two of the last three games.

Jack missed most of the preseason with swelling in his knee, which is a big reason Brown had to wait so long to get an extended look at the lineup.

By going to a three-guard attack, Jack was at times a pseudo small forward, which means plenty of open looks on corner 3-pointers. Both Gee and Clark have struggled knocking down open shots, but Jack went 2-of-4 on corner 3-pointers Saturday.

Brown has said more than once the last couple of days that the Cavs’ games right now are also sort of their practices, which helps explain some of his lineup shuffling during Saturday’s win.

“I felt it was the right time to experiment,” Brown said. “It makes us that much more dynamic [offensively]. They can all create, shoot and pass. It was a neat thing to watch those guys feed off each other. The trust and belief was there.”

What it gives the Cavs on offense it can take away defensively, which is why Brown may have to be careful when he uses it. Both Irving and Jack are listed at 6-foot-3 and Waiters is 6-4, which could leave the Cavs vulnerable against some of the league’s bigger wings.

One of the main reasons they tried Clark at the small forward spot initially was his 6-10 length, so switching from a 6-10 former power forward to a 6-4 guard at the “3” is a dramatic adjustment.

Jack, though, believes the Cavs’ guards are versatile enough to be capable defenders.

“I think we have guys who, it might not show in stature, but in toughness and will and desire make up for that,” he said. “I don’t care how tall you are. If you don’t have that fight or that grittiness to bite down and get stops when necessary and rebound, it’s going to be all for naught anyway.”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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