Deron Williams and the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up a four-game road trip over the weekend, only to welcome one of the teams nipping at their heels in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
D-Will had an efficient night, shooting 75 percent from the floor on Saturday night, accruing nine points and four assists. The Cavs also maintained a plus-2 scoring margin while No. 31 was on the floor, despite being tasked with guarding the explosive Wizards backcourt combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal. But over the long haul, Cleveland couldn’t stop D.C.’s explosive guards in a 127-115 defeat.
“It’s a tough stretch, but everyone is going through it right now,” said head coach Tyronn Lue. “We know this group has it in us to lock into teams defensively. Golden State last year, holding them to under 40 percent I think three or four games, probably the best offensive team in NBA history. We can do it, and it’s in us, so we’ve just got to start putting it together.”
Lue cited the fact that his team had played 17 games in the current month—as opposed to the 21 they competed in over two months during last season’s title run. The wear-and-tear has been difficult on his team, but with the playoffs approaching, Deron has proved he can fill a valuable role.
“He’s a savvy vet who knows how to play,” Lue said of D-Will. “He can play pick-and-roll, shoot the basketball. He just knows how to play. Starting out in Utah where he had a great system and was able to run a lot of pick-and-rolls and know all the reads to the pick-and-rolls. He’s been phenomenal, and it’s great that we have him here.”
Washington started fast and didn’t look back, gaining a 40-26 advantage over Cleveland in the first quarter behind 18 John Wall points. The Cavs battled back in the second, winning the quarter 35-31, but they were unable to prevent the Wizards from putting up 71 in the first half. Washington shot nearly 60 percent from the field.
While Coach Lue alluded to a plan to adjust the team defense, he outlined a cautious approach to safeguarding a new strategy for the playoffs.
“We’ve got to hold back,” he said following the loss. “We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do.”
The Cavs narrowed the Washington lead to just five points entering the fourth quarter, but the Wizards turned it on in the final fifteen minutes and finished with a 12-point advantage.
The road doesn’t get any easier. Now, D-Will and Co. head into a big showdown with the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
Cleveland will tip off against the Western Conference’s second-place team at 8 p.m. on TNT from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, in a matchup with NBA Finals implications.
“They’ve been playing well for the past 20 years,” LeBron James said of the Spurs. “Nothing has changed.”