This was the final play of the Cleveland Cavaliers-Atlanta Hawks game on Friday night that earned Cleveland its fourth win of the year. It has been a rough go of it for the Cavs this season, even before Kyrie Irving went down. It seemed like unless Dion Waiters was hitting an array of contested 3-pointers, then Irving and Anderson Varejao were the only consistent players whom Byron Scott could throw out there.
With Irving out for a couple more weeks, it forces players on the team other than Varejao and his rebound-vacuum arms to make plays. Against the Hawks, the Cavs had to make a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter. It was fueled by eight of Jeremy Pargo's 22 points in the game and two huge 3-point shots by Daniel Gibson.
At the end, though, Scott told his team to give Waiters the ball and get out of the way. They assumed he'd use his strong handle to get past his defender and get a shot at the rim. Instead, he went into "Andrew Bynum mode" and fired up a 3-point attempt. It might have hit the rim, and it might not have. But what it did do was fall into the hands of Alonzo Gee, for the heady putback to give the Cavs the 113-111 road victory.
Then with 2.9 seconds left, to the horror of Scott and everyone on the Cavs' bench, Waiters hoisted an ill-advised 3-pointer that hit absolutely nothing. Waiters insists it glanced off the rim, but he's the only one who saw it hit iron. Everyone else saw an errant air ball that landed in Gee's hands.
As the rest of the players on the floor seemed to relax for a split-second, Gee caught the shot/pass and put it in with three-tenths of a second left. The Hawks left the court stunned as the Cavs celebrated their second victory since Nov. 5.“It was like, ‘We're going to clear it out.' I guess I have to be a little more specific and say, ‘Try to get to the basket,' ” Scott joked. “We had the matchup. I thought it was a perfect matchup for us. Then he bailed [Stevenson] out by shooting a 3 that didn't touch nothing. Luckily ‘Zo' was there to rebound the ball and put it in.”
All it took was Josh Smith falling asleep a bit on the boards or assuming the ball was going to carom another way, allowing Gee to swoop in and be opportunistic.
As for Waiters' shot selection, it's definitely not the type of shot you want to see him take at the end of the game. While the idea of him getting to the rim to get a better look at a shot or earn a trip to the free throw line sounds nice, he has had a horrible time trying to finish at the rim and in the restricted area this season. However, from the top of the arc (where he took that final shot), he has been even worse.
|Dion Waiters' 2012-13 shooting chart. (NBA.com/Stats)|
Sometimes, though, it's better to be lucky than good. And if a team gets lucky enough, they start to believe it's no longer luck; it's just how things are supposed to go.
As for Waiters' confidence in the shot that he took? It didn't waiver at all after the poorly-executed attempt.
Scott said a number of players were hammering Waiters for taking the 3, but he insisted even after the game it was the right shot.
“I wouldn't take the shot back at all. If I had a chance to do it again, I'd take the same shot,” Waiters said before hesitating and adding, “Maybe get a little closer.”
Looking at the chart, having him stepping in would have produced a shot he seems to hit more regularly. And taking a step or three to his right definitely would have produced a shot he's knocking down with regularity this season.
Still, it's good to know the rookie is confident in his own abilities and not afraid of the moment. Sometimes that confidence can get out of control, and you end up with a gunner on the team who hurts the lineups that he's in. But if Scott can refine Waiters' skills and decision-making while keeping his confidence up, Gee probably won't have many opportunities at the end of games to save the day.