Heading into a much-anticipated week where the Cavaliers play host to the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, they have not only won two of their last three games, but they played hard and competed in their 11-point loss to the Orlando Magic. And if there is a silver lining, or even a bright yellow lining, it is that fans will get to see a lot more of J.J. Hickson’s new shoes.
Discussed for what was the entirety of Saturday night’s 92-86 comeback win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson wore what head coach Byron Scott called “some of the ugliest shoes he has seen in a long time.” Big, bright and yellow would be the easiest way to describe Hickson’s new kicks, the ones he called “Cheetos” after the game.
Hickson claimed that he was planning on breaking them out for the Miami game this coming Thursday, but decided to unleash them a bit earlier. Whatever is in them undoubtedly worked, especially in the fourth quarter (a place where JJ had not played much in the last five games) where Hickson had six of his 16 points, playing with a level of energy which had been absent for the last few weeks. Not cracking double-digit points since November 13, Hickson showed explosiveness on both ends of the court, including one of the better offensive fouls one will ever see where he went over the back of a Memphis defender on a dunk put-back attempt. JJ earned a whistle, but it was the Grizzlie defender who too the basketball to their back while the Quicken Loans Arena crowd was brought to their feet.
“I thought [J.J.] played well,” said Byron Scott following the win. “Again, he played exactly the way we wanted him to play. Really just all out effort, getting up and down the floor. We tell all our bigs, first big down, we call it rim-running, and he was doing that and getting himself available, so one for five I think in the first half, and you know five for six in the second half, so I thought that was a big difference.”
It was a much-needed turnaround for a player who the Cavs hope can be their offensive weapon of the future. Thankfully for Cleveland, the turnaround was mid-game as Hickson started off very poorly, missing three jump shots and turning the ball over within a three minute window within the first quarter. Falling in love with his jumper after the 31-point outburst against the Atlanta Hawks, it has been a one-sided love affair as the third-year forward had shot 8-for-27 (29 percent) from the 16-to-23 foot range heading into Saturday night.
The Cavaliers took a 16-point defecit and turned it into a 12-point lead thanks to timely strong defense and execution on offense. Mo Williams notched his first double-double of the season thanks to 25 points and 12 assists; Anderson Varejao added 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots – two of the season-high nine rejections, holding the Grizz to 42.4 percent from the floor.
It was a nice rebound game for the Cavs after they dropped the first of the back-to-back to the Magic, a game which head coach Byron Scott said that his team was up against eight men (five players and three referees). He applauded his team’s effort in a game where they may have been overmatched on a talent level, but they fought the entire 48 minutes only to fall short in the end.
Much of Scott’s dismay came at the hands of Orlando center Dwight Howard who was sent to the free throw line 24 times, tying a career high. The Cavaliers were also on the wrong end of some non-calls, drawing even more ire from their first-year head coach. There were several questionable plays that did not go the Cavaliers way, including non-calls on Antawn Jamison and Daniel Gibson. Gibson’s attempt was of the three-point variety and ultimately resulted in the Cavalier guard drawing a technical foul for voicing his displeasure in the officiating. That point swing would subsequently crush any momentum the Cavaliers had, keeping Orlando’s lead for good.
“There were some obvious things that I thought happened that just didn’t go our way for whatever reason,” said Scott postgame. “Just the fact when you asked them a question, about certain calls, it’s “I really don’t know”, “I can’t guess, I’m not guessing,” “I really don’t know.” Get another job, I just don’t understand it. Like I said, I thought our guys fought, played hard and I know there is going to be some bad calls, I understand that’s a part of the game, they are human. But not for forty-eight minutes, that’s all I’m saying.”
Scott knows that he will be getting a phone call from the league office within the next few days, but he made sure that everyone was aware his “checkbook was fine.”
The Cavaliers went from losing five of six games to now winning to of their last three. Standing at 7-9, all of the talk will be about Thursday night’s game against the struggling (relative to expectations) Miami Heat. The Cavs will have to be careful not to look too far ahead as the 12-4 Celtics stand in their way just two nights from today. Hopefully, come Tuesday, they’ll be blinded by the Cheetos, letting another one get away to the Cavs at The Q.
“We got the win,” said Hickson when asked about how often he will wear his new shoes. “I’m not going to stop wearing them.”
(Photo above courtesy of Carl Manteau, photo below via Cavs.com)