Offensive Rebounding Brings Reward
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Delonte West's game-winning three-pointer -- which gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a 100-97 victory and 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series on Sunday -- likely will haunt the Washington Wizards if they lose this series.
But a scene that didn't make many highlight reels was nearly as crushing. It came late in the third quarter when the Cavaliers crashed the offensive glass to extend a two-point lead to seven entering the final period.
The Cavaliers led 75-73 with less than 90 seconds remaining in the third, when they got three offensive rebounds on one possession, setting up two free throws for reserve Devin Brown. On their next possession, the Cavaliers again snared three offensive rebounds, with reserve Joe Smith grabbing a LeBron James miss and completing a three-point play with 0.3 of a second left.
"That was crucial," Smith said of his only field goal of the game. The Wizards "had almost all the momentum going into the third quarter. Just to be able to close the quarter like that kind of got us back focused."
The Cavaliers compensated for poor shooting (41 percent) and poor ballhandling (19 turnovers) by securing extra shots with 18 offensive rebounds. Smith had a team-high five offensive rebounds -- one fewer than the entire Wizards team. Cleveland also beat Washington in second-chance points 20-6.
"Guys hustled," Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "For a team to play good defense, make us miss and then they don't come up with the rebound, it tires you out."
The Cavaliers were the Eastern Conference's best rebounding team in the regular season and now in the playoffs, and they have outrebounded the Wizards in all four games by an average of 46-36. In the past two games, the Cavaliers have 33 offensive rebounds, compared with 11 for the Wizards.
Cavaliers reserve guard Daniel "Boobie" Gibson has emerged as the X factor in this series. The Cavaliers are 3-0 when he scores in double figures, 0-1 when he doesn't. Gibson is averaging 12 points per game in the Cavaliers' wins this series. He had just four points and shot 0 for 3 from beyond the three-point line in Cleveland's 108-72 loss.
Gibson hit 4 of 7 three-point attempts and scored 12 points on Sunday. The Wizards twice closed within three points in the fourth quarter, and each time, Gibson answered with a three-pointer. "Boobie is one of the best shooters in this league," James said. "He hits big shots. He's young . . . but he's been in a lot of playoff games, in only his second year, in a lot of hostile environments."
Gibson, who had a breakout performance against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals last season, is averaging 10 points overall in this series. He had a difficult follow-up season and missed 18 games with a sprained left ankle. When he returned for the final 10 games of the regular season, Gibson scored in double figures only once. He is growing comfortable at the right time.
"He stretches that floor," Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown said of Gibson. "Our opponents have two choices. They can shrink that floor and make that lane look crowded and take away as much LeBron James dribble penetration as possible. Or they can open up the floor and rely on single coverage once the ball gets there. They are choosing to make that lane look crowded and if they are going to make that lane look crowded, we have to knock down shots."
Gibson said he has a knack for hitting those shots, although he still has some complications with his ankle. "I have those days, where I come out and I feel great," Gibson said recently. "It's a process you dread going through, but it's good once you get to the point where you can play with it and start feeling good."