Cavaliers 88 – 76ers 72 [box]
I would love to see a list of how many teams could roll into a game without their starting center – who is putting up very good numbers year to date – along with another top-five scorer and still walk away with a double-digit win. Sure, the Cavs were well below their season average in scoring (103.2), but the team stepped up their efforts on the defensive end to ensure that this one never got out of hand.
And while we can talk about LeBron James’ line of 28 points, seven boards, seven assists, and three (3!) blocked shots, we would be missing out on a key statistic: 36 minutes on the floor. Without a would-be second option, James still had to play for less than 40 minutes.
Much of this was due to the way that the rest of the Cavaliers stepped up. In his first start of the season, Anderson Varejao notched 17 points and seven rebounds to go with two steals and two blocked shots. The wild man also hit all three of hit free-throw attempts, converting some solid three-point plays. He still can’t get over that 18-points hump (even with his 17-point first half against Indiana a few nights back), but I have a feeling he’ll get his shot if Ilgauskas is to miss considerable time.
Delonte West lead the Cavs in +/- with +15 thanks to his well-timed 16 points. Mo Williams was right there with 14 of his own, and rookie Darnell Jackson pulled down eight boards in his 24 minutes of play. Mysteriously, J.J. Hickson, however, was relegated to last minute garbage time territory by playing only one minute of basketball, recording only a single assist. But a big congratulations to Cleveland native Jawad Williams, notching his first points with the team in what was likely an emotional moment for he and his family, who was in attendance.
Some team key stats from last night:
Turnovers: Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 11
Assists: Cleveland 19, Philadelphia 17
Rebounds: Philadelphia 40, Cleveland 39
3PTM-A: Cleveland 6-18, Philadelphia 1-12
The Cavs are now 13-0 at home, and are 19-1 since the fourth quarter collapse against the New Orleans Hornets. The team will now take a four-game road trip that will surely test their depth and defense. The next game is tonight at Atlanta, which will be a lot more difficult with Josh Smith fully healthy. Then they head to Minnesota, Denver and Oklahoma City before coming back next Tuesday to play Rockets.
They’ll have to count on a lot more contribution from their reserves, but after what we’ve seen thus far, I don’t think that will be too big of an issue. It’s a great time to be a Cavaliers fan.