J-Mac is Back on the Attack

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Jeff McInnis is undoubtedly the Cavaliers' floor general.
Joe Murphy
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You’ve all heard the expression: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’

The Cavaliers knew they had their point guard last year when they swapped enigmatic swingman Darius Miles for Jeff McInnis on January 24. But until their playoff wheels came off when J-Mac went down, nobody knew the degree of how much they’d miss him when he was gone.

The numbers speak for themselves. Including this season’s 4-3 start, the Cavaliers are 24-14 with McInnis in the lineup, they are 1-8 without him. Last year, players and coaches alike referred to J-Mac as the team’s “quarterback.” Without him last year, they were running the hoops version of the single wing.

This year, McInnis has picked up where he left off. Aside from All-Everything small forward, LeBron James, J-Mac has been the club’s most consistent performer. Since a lackluster first half against the Pacers in the season opener, McInnis has been sensational; running the team to perfection, hitting big shots, keeping LBJ involved, working the two-man game flawlessly with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and providing stability down the stretch.

“Every time we break down, I want to go two-man game with Z,” said McInnis. “Because I know he can stick the jumper or get it to me wide-open on the block.”

But because of LeBron’s sophomore success, Big Z’s big games and Drew Gooden’s work under the glass (and the microscope) J-Mac’s rock-solid play has gone somewhat unnoticed.

“Before, I thought he was looking to feed off too much and he was passing up some openings,” said head coach Paul Silas. “He was hesitant. And now there’s no hesitation at all. When he’s on, he’s just a very good shooter, a very good penetrator.

“We expect him to do a job and he’s doing it very well.”

McInnis is an extension of Coach Silas out on the floor.
David Liam Kyle
NBAE/Getty Images
The Cavaliers’ co-captain goes into Thursday night’s game against Charlotte averaging almost 15 points and six assists per game. He ranks 23rd in the league in the assist-to-turnover ratio statistic, but odds are good that he’ll rocket up that chart. J-Mac’s always among the league-leaders.

McInnis has turned it up on the offensive end in the last few games. He’s been in double-figures since scoring seven in the first game against Indiana. He dropped a season-high 20 points on the Warriors on Monday night and since the forgetful opener, J-Mac is shooting exactly 50 percent from the field (40-of-80) and has provided the outside shot the Cavaliers have lacked.

“Some nights I’m going to score. Some nights I’m not,” said the former Tar Heel. “(Early in the season) I wasn’t aggressive. I wasn’t driving to the hole in the first two or three games. I watched some tape from last year and I got back to how I was playing last year.”

Perhaps the best illustration of McInnis’ game and its impact on the Wine and Gold took place between the third and fourth quarter in Monday’s 99-88 win over Golden State. With two seconds remaining and the Cavaliers clinging to a three-point lead, Jason Richardson hit a short jumper to cut Cleveland’s lead to one. Eric Snow in-bounded the make and got the ball to J-Mac just shy of half court. McInnis calmly cut through a pair of Warrior defenders and sank a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to put the Wine and Gold back up by four.

“I caught myself off guard on that one,” McInnis laughed after Wednesday’s win. “I got a great pass from E-Snow and just made a move and tried to get a shot up before the clock went off. You know, I practice those shots every day in practice. So I felt when it left my hand that it was good.”

Speaking of Snow, the tandem has worked seamlessly this season. The two co-captains (along with Z) form a solid veteran backcourt duo that has propelled the Cavaliers past the .500 mark for the first time four years. And there’s no turning back from here.

If the Cavaliers machine is running smoothly, the engine that makes them go is Jeff McInnis. The numbers don’t lie. J-Mac is the straw that stirs the drink.