Fans in Toronto got a firsthand look tonight at why teams around the NBA still need to fear the beard.
Baron Davis played like a man possessed as he dished out nine dimes while scoring eight points in the first half. He continued to roll in the second half and finished the game with 19 points and a game-high 12 assists along with a couple of huge daggers in the fourth quarter to ice the win for his team.
Davis got J.J. Hickson going early in the game with some great lobs and by setting him up with some easy looks. Hickson benefitted by the inspired play of Davis by scoring 21 points in the first half while going 7-10 from the field.
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Hickson finished with a game-high 28 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
After getting Hickson rolling, Davis then managed to get Ryan Hollins going with back-to-back lobs. Hollins was then hacked on his third time down the court and earned two free throws.
Not a bad start to the game for a big man who is averaging a paltry 5.0 points per game this season and 4.2 over his career.
“It’s rare to find players like Baron (Davis) who are true point guards,” Hollins boasted to HOOPSADDICT.com after the game. ”You run so much harder because it’s a huge, huge confidence boast to know your point guard will find you on the break after you’ve made a big play on the defensive end. Playing with Baron, I run hard every single possession. I focus on my screens. There is just something about knowing that you’ll get the ball.”
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As great as Davis’ impact was on the offensive end, it was just as impressive to see him bark at his teammates to get into position on defense and offense. Davis wasn’t just barking out orders as he picked up a steal in the first half and finished with three steals for the game.
Davis pulled his teammates together to yell at them at the 2:46 mark of the second quarter. Toronto had gone on a mild run to pull to within striking distance at 50-37 but coming out of that timeout – and a players only huddle called by Davis – the Cavs went on a 17-10 run to pretty much seal the game with a 60-40 halftime advantage.
After the game Byron Scott raved after the game about the leadership role Davis has taken on with the team and the dividends it is already paying.
“The one thing we talked about when we made the deal for him was his experience and leadership,” Scott explained to HOOPSADDICT.com. “He’s a natural born leader and he’s going to get on guys. He’s going to get guys to where they need to be on the court and tonight he called a couple of huddles to get guys straight on what we were doing on both ends of the floor. That’s invaluable. The guys in that locker room respect him, big time, and it didn’t take him long to be able to interact with a lot of our guys. I thought from day one they knew that he was our starting point guard and they knew he was going to be our leader. He’s kind of taken that role and I think he’s really enjoying the fact he’s the older statesman.
For Davis, taking on an increased leadership role with this team is just the next step in his evolution as a player.
“I just think it has been a natural flow and progression for me,” Davis told HOOPSADDICT.com. “For me, I’ve kind of been through a lot this year. Being able to take on a leadership role with the Clippers has helped me with these guys. The young guys here are really receptive to it and the coaches are really open to giving me that leadership role. I’m just embracing that role and trying my best to help out this team.”
When news spread that Davis had been dealt to Cleveland countless members of the media and fans of the team cringed because he had gotten the reputation as being a diva and the exact opposite kind of player a rebuilding franchise needed to be paying big money.
It’s ironic, then, that Davis has turned out to be just the kind of veteran leader this young team needed.
Photo Courtesy of Ryan McNeill