“Tonight, we talk about opportunities, and he took advantage of it.”
That was Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, talking about his point guard, his recently third-string point guard Jeremy Pargo, he of eight total points over three games this season. Pargo got the start tonight, and 39 minutes later, Jeremy had turned in a career-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Cavaliers defended, got key bench contributions, and led by the unexpected showing of Pargo, beat the Sixers 92-83 in Quicken Loans Arena.
The 26-year-old second-year player made the most of his opportunity from the outset, attacking the bucket and leaving Jrue Holiday in his wake. Instead of forcing anything, Pargo really only took open shots with the exception of a couple of deep balls with the shot clock winding down. Pargo set the tone early in the game as Dion Waiters attacked the bucket as well with Alonzo Gee posting up in the corner and knocking down a pair of key threes early.
Twelve of Pargo’s points came in the fourth quarter, with the best being a 26-footer that seemingly dropped out of the sky and put the game out of reach with two minutes remaining. Pargo did an admirable job on the defensive end as well, holding Holiday to 16 points on 16 shots. It’s impossible to ask Pargo to consistently fill Kyrie’s scoring output as he did tonight, but if he continues to take what the defense gives him and attack the basket, perhaps we could have the second coming of Lester Hudson that sweeps the city for the month the Cavs will be without No. 2.
Dion Waiters bounced back from another cold shooting start to have an effect on the game as well with 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting. Waiters played nearly 39 minutes as well with Byron shortening the rotation due to the losses of Irving and Daniel Gibson, who was a late scratch with his lingering elbow issue. “He’s got to do a better job of getting to the basket,” said Scott of his rookie shooting guard. “You’re a rookie, you’re not going to get calls. Live with it, deal with it.”
Likewise, it was a frustrating game from the viewpoint of Anderson Varejao who had both a dust-up with an official and his own teammate. Andy shouted at Tristan Thompson for coming over his back in an attempt to secure a rebound that Varejao firmly had. The ball was consequently knocked out of bounds with Philly regaining possession and scoring thereafter. The conversation continued to the bench, where the telecast showed Tristan avoiding eye contact with Andy and appearing to tune him out a bit. As for the officiating, it was exhaustingly bad, culminating when Varejao and Evan Turner wrestled underneath the bucket with Andy trying to shoot the ball. A jump ball was called, and Varejao was called for a technical due to his demonstrative reaction to the call. Meanwhile, while Andy protested the call, Evan Turner slapped the official’s arm on purpose as if to high-five him. What happened to no contact with the officials? The former Buckeye did have 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists on the night. As for Varejao, he nonchalantly logged another double-double with 10 points and 19 rebounds.
“Andy is the edge,” said the most popular man in Cleveland on this night. While Pargo led the offensive effort, Varejao helped hold the Sixers to sub-40% shooting for the second straight game (36%). With the exception of a string of second quarter layups, the wine and gold really clamped down, contested every shot, and hit the defensive boards hard, winning the rebounding battle 55-39. The defensive has improved each of the last three games, and it will need to get even better heading out on a tough three-game road trip against Orlando, Miami, and Memphis that begins Friday.
As for the bench, it actually showed up tonight. C.J. Miles posted his Cavalier high with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Scott had mentioned that Miles had some good practices this week, and he only asked that Miles take shots going toward the basket or set jumpers to get into a flow. Miles did just that, and it helped the Cavaliers avoid the standard dropoff when Byron goes to the bench. Granted, Scott played just eight guys with Omri Casspi and Tyler Zeller combining for 7 more points from the bench bunch. It did, however, not prevent Scott from going small at the end of the game even with different personnel. With Thaddeus Young playing the 4, Byron sent a lineup of Pargo, Waiters, Miles, Gee, and Varejao out there down the stretch, and it worked out very well.
As we all sit down to turkey and the rest tomorrow with our family and friends, we can all agree to be thankful for Jeremy Pargo’s unexpected starring role on this night that ended a two-week losing streak.
(Photo: Mark Duncan/AP)