Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters has never lacked for confidence.
The second-year guard from Philadelphia by way of Syracuse University has stepped up his game in the absence of starting point guard Kyrie Irving, who has been out of the lineup with a strained tendon in his left biceps since the first half of a 102-80 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 16.
Waiters took another step forward in his progression on Wednesday night, as he buried the game-winning shot as time expired in the Cavaliers' 97-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
"I don't know if it could make his confidence go any higher because it's pretty high, but it does add to it in some way, shape or form," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said with a laugh after Wednesday's win, the third straight come-from-behind victory for Cleveland. "If you think about it, just off the top of my head, he did it against Orlando. He relishes and looks for those moments, and I'm happy for him."
Prior to the game-winning shot, Waiters had converted only seven of his 19 field-goal attempts, and missed all six of his three-point shots. However, when drawing up the final play after the Cavaliers got a defensive stop and rebound with 3.2 seconds remaining, there was no doubt in Brown's mind that Waiters "was going to take the last shot" against Detroit.
"He misses six wide-open threes, catches the ball in the corner and I told him to drive because we were in the bonus and felt that (Rodney) Stuckey, or whoever was guarding him, was going to be in his chest and he'd probably pick up a foul," Brown said.
"That's how much he listens to me, but in hindsight, he makes those and misses the wide-open ones, so I'm okay with him taking it. It was a heck of a game by Dion. He wanted the ball and he showed why he has a chance to be great."
And it is because of the confidence Waiters showed in his abilities when taking the final shot that Brown believed the Cavaliers would finish off the comeback from a 16-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.
"I don't say this often, but when he caught it, did the little thing that he does, and he shot a fade-away 19, 20-foot shot, for some reason, I was like, 'This is going to go in,'" Brown said. "I just felt it was going to go in because that's who he is. That's what he does. It was great to see him make that shot.
"It was great to see the team react the way they did. You could tell these games still mean something for them. The togetherness that we're having during this stretch is a lot of fun to be around."