New Bench Players Leading Cleveland Cavaliers To Victory

By Nick Claussen
David Richard – USA TODAY Sports

So this is what it is like for the Cleveland Cavaliers to have a dependable bench.

The Cavaliers have won three straight games, and two of the wins came after the team’s big trade with the Memphis Grizzlies changed the makeup of the team. Two of the players acquired in the trade were huge in both games coming off the bench, while another recent acquisition has also been making key contributions playing with the team’s second unit.

In the trade with the Grizzlies, the Cavaliers picked up forward/center Marreese Speights, guard Wayne Ellington and guard Josh Selby.  The Cavaliers also received a protected first round draft pick and only had to give up little used big man Jon Leuer.

Selby has been sent down to franchise’ NBA D-League team in Canton, but Speights and Ellington have immediately become key contributors.

In the Cavaliers’ Friday night match up with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Wine and Gold bench players, led by Speights and Ellington, brought the team back in the second quarter and again in the fourth quarter. Ellington’s three-point basket with 6:31 to play, in fact, put the Cavaliers ahead for good. Speights, meanwhile, scored 10 points while pulling down six rebounds and recorded two steals.

Another recent pickup, guard Shaun Livingston was also key in that win, scoring 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

Reserve forward Luke Walton, who has seen his playing time increase recently, passed out seven assists and also played very well.

“It’s pretty simple. I told my guys to thank the second unit. They won the game for us. It’s that simple,” Head Coach Byron Scott said after the game.

Of course, Kyrie Irving did score 35 points in the game and it would have been pretty difficult to get the win without him, but it’s easy to see Scott’s point about how important the bench play was.

Then on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors, the bench players once again brought the Cavaliers back and were key parts of the victory.

Ellington hit several big shots and was 3-for-4 from the three-point line. He finished with 12 points. Speights also scored in big moments and finished with 17 points while shooting 7-for-13.

Livingston was also big, as he played solid defense at the end of the game and was key to the offense getting good shots.

And while you can’t leave out Irving’s 32 points, which included the game-winning three-pointer with 0.7 seconds to go in the game, the bench players once again pushed the Cavaliers to victory.

That was certainly something you couldn’t say about the Wine and Gold bench players earlier in the season.

Too often this year, the Cavaliers have simply not gotten much production from the team’s second unit. Fans could only hope that the bench players could hold onto a lead or not let a deficit get too large. The bench players could not be counted on to bring the team back, extend a lead or give the Cavaliers a push that they needed to get a win.

It’s only two games in with Speights and Ellington, but so far the results are extremely positive. Adding these two players along with Livingston seems to be just what the Cavaliers needed, especially with forward/center Anderson Varejao out for the rest of the season and guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson also missing significant time with injuries.

It’s nice to see the Cavaliers playing with a solid bench, and it’s even better to see the Wine and Gold finally winning a few games.

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