It is no secret that J.J. Hickson has spent much of the last year working on his jump shot. Whether it be through extra practice sessions with Chris Jent or an increased amount of attempts during Summer League, the third-year power forward has endeavored to broaden his game.
And while fans and opponents alike have seen an improvement in his form and conversion rate outside of the paint, Tuesday night’s 100-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks saw an entirely new – and perhaps very lucky – Hickson who drained all six of his jump shots outside of the 16-foot mark, finishing with a career-high 31 points on 11-of-17 from the field.
The Hickson came out stroking, providing the Cavaliers with eight of their first 10 points, all of which came on jump-shots just beyond the free throw line as Hawks forward Josh Smith was giving the 22-year old plenty of room with which to work. He refused to slow down as the game progressed, attacking the Hawks with different moves to the rim as well as a couple more jumpers for good measure. Atlanta was forced to foul the hustling Hickson several times through the course of the game, sending him to the line 11 times (making nine, also a career-high).
“I’ve been working at [my jumpshot] a lot,” said Hickson following the game. “It’s just a matter of me gaining more confidence and just shotting the ball when I get an opportunity.”
On the downside, in 32 minutes of play, Hickson only managed to grab five total rebounds and contributed five of the team’s 14 turnovers – at least three of which came on traveling calls.
On the rebounding front, Hickson managed to snag only 9.6 percent of all defensive rebounding opportunities. Teammates Anderson Varejao and Jamario Moon pulled in 29.4 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively. With regard to turnovers, though Hickson scored 31 points on only 17 shots, he effectively used 25 possessions when factoring in the five times he allowed Atlanta to take possession while contributing nil in the assist category.
Knowing that he had a big night, Hickson realizes that he (and the rest of the Cavaliers) have to do more if they want to add to the win column that currently boasts only one tally mark.
“It’s good, but it doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t get the win,” said Hickson. “We have to get back to the drawing board, see what we did wrong throughout the whole game, especially in the first quarter.”
Said drawing board should consist of improved defense, a focus on the boards and a lack of mental errors that result in turnovers. During the first quarter, the Cavaliers allowed the Hawks to shoot 71 percent from the floor through the first 13 minutes. Many jump shots were uncontested, and were definitely unsustainable (as seen by the end percentage of 44 percent), but it allowed the Hawks to build a large enough lead that would prove to be insurmountable for the Cavaliers come the end of the fourth quarter. The six first-quarter turnovers (two by Hickson) only added some salt into the wounds.
Hickson currently averages a team best 18.3 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 turnovers in 27.1 minutes, shooting 80.8 percent from the charity stripe. His contributions on the offensive end are a pleasant surprise from a player who many considered to be the X-Factor heading into the 2010-11 season. But if the Cavaliers are going to count on J.J. to take his all-around game to the next level, he’s going to have to get better on the boards and rein in the turnovers – all things that he is fully capable of doing.
Now, about those “MVP” chants…
(AP Photo/David Richard)