Mike’s Take: The West Factor

It was an ugly game last night, but championship teams find ways to win these games and Cleveland, with new cast members, found a way to dominate Atlanta in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Neither LeBron nor Joe Johnson had it going, but the Cavs stepped up as a team on defense and had role players come to the fore while the Hawks came undone. Besides the tremendous defense, Delonte West was a key to the victory, just as he was last year when the Cavs swept the Hawks out of the playoffs.

When Delonte is healthy and getting minutes he changes the complexion of this Cleveland team. He’s a tremendous athlete with a high basketball IQ who’s not afraid of the big moment. We saw his toughness on display last night when he dunked on Josh Smith who’s second in the league in blocks. Cleveland knows what they will get from LeBron, Z, Mo Williams and Varejao, but Delonte is the X factor. If he continues to perform at a high level this could be the year that LeBron and company are crowned champs.

[nba-video vid=channels/top_plays/2009/12/29/20091229_dotn.nba]