Back in action after extended rest this week, the Cavaliers found a way to win in Philadelphia last night against the struggling 76ers. It certainly was not a game to keep in mind as the Cavs continue to prepare for the playoffs, but this was a necessary tune-up game with the important Celtics showdown this Sunday in Cleveland.
In the record books this will stand as win #51 in the season but I’m sure nobody will put this game on the season highlight reel. Unless you count the dunk contest that was underway in the second quarter between LeBron James and Andre Iguodala. It came down to the wire yet again with the 76ers having a chance to tie up the score before rookie Jrue Holiday threw a pass right in the hands of Delonte West to seal the deal.
The key for talking about this game will be to remember it is only March. There really is no reason for the Cavalier players to exert that much effort into road games against Philadelphia in March. The fact the team allowed a season-high 66 points in the paint (52 was the previous mark) while being out-rebounded by eight is not a pretty sight. In the end however, the Cavs found a way to register yet another victory.
Game ball should definitely go to Delonte West for sealing the deal and playing yet another key role off the bench in this win. Sure it was nice to have LeBron back in the starting lineup after a week of rest, but I have no idea where this team would be without the constant safety valve of West. He finished with 17 points, four assists and a pair of steals. In 12 games since from the injured list on February 11th, he is averaging 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 0.8 steals in 28.1 minutes per contest.
Check out these extended bullets surrounding the various topics from last night’s game:
– Take a look at the minute breakdown for the nine players that played tonight at the ESPN box score. Certainly, LeBron will get his 40+ minutes in the post-season while Andy, West and Mo should be right around 30. Looking around that however, I seriously doubt how much playing time we will see for Jamario Moon (18), Jawad Williams (17) and Leon Powe (15). The addition of Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison should take the majority of those minutes back while Moon will probably get the scraps.
– J.J. Hickson is truly a feast or famine player. Over the past two months, he has played some of the basketball of his entire career but oftentimes he will have games like he did against the 76ers last night. A complete mismatch against Elton Brand, Hickson finished with just seven points, five rebounds and three fouls in 30 minutes. Brand, on the other hand, went off for 24/9 in this game (ninth time in 59 games this year he has scored 20+ pts), a reminder that Hickson does still remain a liability defensively in the rotation.
– There is no question that Andre Iguodala is a freakish athlete capable of just lighting up the court. He had a phenomenal game tonight and one that reminds Cavs fans of the trade rumors from last month. While he was consistent throughout most of the game, Moon was the one who stepped up his game late in retaliation. At the end of the first half, Iguodala responded to LeBron’s insane alley-oop with a pair of furious dunks right next to Moon. His lack of effort must have lead to some halftime adjustments as he was a huge reason for the late spurt to take control. This team is scary athletic whenever he is on the court.
– Your number of the night is 31. That is number of three point attempts by the Cavs tonight, even without Antawn Jamison who is averaging four per contest himself. The bench was 2-for-10 from downtown and LeBron was 3-for-10 from downtown. As bad as the free throw shooting was in this game and it has been most of this season, I think this is the more serious concern offensively. This is a very streaky three point shooting team, especially with Anthony Parker and Mo Williams not consistently at the top of their game. Might be a reason to find some more minutes yet again for Boobie Gibson..
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.