Recording his ninth double-double of the season in a 10-point win over the Knicks on Wednesday evening, the man whom Clevelander’s endear as “Wild Thing” pulled down a season-high eight offensive rebounds en route to a 10-point, 16-board evening. If this wasn’t enough, the Brazilian big man added four assists, four steals, two blocked shots and drew a late-game technical foul on the Big Apple’s freshest addition in Tyson Chandler, a whistle which helped pull the likely overpaid rug right out from under New York’s feet.
Amidst the team’s recent loss to the Atlanta Hawks wherein the entire team looked lackadaisical at best, the largest surprise is that of Varejao who typically takes to the floor as if he was recently unplugged from a supercharged grid. Following the contest, Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott pulled Varejao aside to let him know that didn’t look like himself – the continually charged big man oozing effort classified as a contagion. The result of said discussion can certainly be encapsulated within the box score, but – as is usually the case with Varejao – this only tells the beginning of the story.
In a game where Kyrie Irving and Ramon Sessions could not seem to get it going offensively, the Varejao-led Wine and Gold opted to clamp down defensively and allow considerably more room for error when the ball was in their possession. During a stretch of the game where the Cavs “couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean,” as Byron Scott put everso eloquently, the entire defensive unit kept the team in the game until shots finally started to fall. Energy, effort and focus were prevalent through an entire 48 minutes – something that has undoubtedly inconsistent over the last week – and the result was a hard-earned win.
Carmelo Anthony was held to 37 percent shooting, Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t fair much better, needing 19 field goal attempts to amass 19 points. And the abovementioned Chandler? The high-priced, highly-coveted big man who was apparently worth releasing point guard Chancey Billups?
“That shouldn’t have been a technical foul,” said the former Dallas Maverick center. “[Varejao] was on my back on every play and free throw. I’m just trying to get him off so he doesn’t get an offensive rebound. Hopefully the league looks at it and sees what really happened.”
What they will see is a visibly frustrated Chandler, the victim of his direct opponent pulling down eight offensive rebounds, extending plays which helped lead to 12 second-chance points, boxing out via his right elbow being jabbed directly into the jugular of Cleveland’s No. 17. In fact, Chandler was fortunate that he did not receive a second technical foul after Varejao left a scrum with his headband askew, his hair resembling that of a mushroom cloud, and his team that much closer to the final buzzer sounding with his team the victor.
As the All-Star game draws closer, it will grow increasingly difficult to omit Varejao despite his reputation for flopping and the incredibly misconception regarding his value. The box score, typically Varejao’s arch-enemy, shows that the Cavaliers’ center is second in the Eastern Conference in rebounds per game (11.2) and total rebounding percentage (21.0) while possessing a lead over New Jersey’s Kris Humphries in terms of total offensive rebounds and offensive rebounding percentage (16.6).
The campaign for Varejao to be an All-Star last season was well in place prior to the big man sustaining a season-ending foot injury. After his recent play compiled with career best totals in PER (17.5) and total rebound rate compiled with the effect which he is having on an otherwise very young and inexperienced team cannot be ignored.
Interestingly enough, Scott’s pitch from last season came after a win over the Knicks. Those poor guys just can’t catch a break, eh?
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)