Cavs vs 76ers Behind the Box Score: Five in a row

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Cleveland took a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break, and in their first game back they picked up right where they left off. The Cavs got off to a fast start in Philadelphia Tuesday night and they never let up, winning one of their most complete games of the season by an easy 114-85 margin.

While the game was mostly an enjoyable affair, it wasn’t without drama. In the second quarter Dion Waiters threw down a monstrous dunk in traffic, but when he came down and tried to stop his momentum, his left leg locked up and he hyperextended his knee. It was a terrifying moment as Dion laid on the ground holding his knee. Thankfully, worst fears were never realized as Dion was shortly back up laughing with Kyrie. He was held out the rest of the game and for now his status is uncertain, but it seems as if the injury isn’t as bad as it initially looked like it could have been.

Other than that, this game was mostly a walk in the park against a severely struggling Sixers team. Offense, defense, transition…it was all clicking for the Cavs in this one and it’s a great way to keep building on the momentum as the Cavaliers hit the stretch run of the season. Before this game it would have been hard to believe that with Dion leaving the game in the second quarter with injury, Kyrie having a quiet but efficient 14 points and three assists in limited minutes, and Andy being out that the Cavaliers would coast to an easy 29-point victory, but that’s precisely what happened.

So lets get into the numbers…

  • 8 – The Cavaliers had eight first quarter assists. The ball movement to start this game was phenomenal. Their first seven made field goals all came off of assists, with Tyler Zeller being especially active in the pick and roll game and paying off the good passes he was getting from his teammates. Zeller had 10 of his team high 18 points in the first quarter to really set the tone for this game. The ball movement was truly a team effort in this  game, too. The team had 28 assists, with 10 different players having at least one, with only Jarrett Jack (seven) and Matthew Dellavedova (four) having more than three assists.
  • 61 – The Cavaliers outrebounded the Sixers 61-to-44 in a complete domination of the glass. They had 21 offensive rebounds leading to 17 second-chance points. Tyler Zeller led the way here as well with a career high 15 rebounds. Three Cavaliers had double-doubles in this game as well (Zeller, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett).
  • 20 to 13 – The 76ers play at the fastest pace in the NBA and love to try to outrun their opponents. In this one, though, the Cavaliers had a 20-to-13 edge in fastbreak points. After a couple early transition breakdowns the Cavaliers did a great job getting back and stopping the Sixers fastbreak attack. Of course, controlling the rebounds is also a really great way to stop a team from running on you.
  • 35.6% – The Cavaliers held Philly to just 35.6% shooting from the field. Mike Brown made a major adjustment to his defensive system during the break. Previously, Mike Brown’s defenses have always used the hard show on pick and roll defense. This can put a lot of pressure both on the backcourt defenders as well as the help rotation. With the team struggling to execute his defense, he switched out the hard show and instead had the pick defender shadow back into the paint. This move cut off the ball handler’s driving lane and gave the backcourt defenders more time to recover. It’s essentially the same defense teams have been using this season to try to contain Kyrie Irving. Tonight, that defensive changed worked wonders for the Cavs defense. We’ll see if they continue to implement this style going forward or if this was an adjustment suited for Philly.
  • 0.6875 – Kyrie Irving had a quiet night in the box score, but his 0.6875 eFG% and 0.829 TS% speak to the efficient scoring night he had. Beyond just the scoring, though, Kyrie was great in initiating the offense. For those who watched this game, it might be hard to believe he only had three assists, as it seemed like he was getting everyone involved in the offense. I don’t know how many “hockey assists” he had, but it was probably quite a few as his unselfishness and patience with the offense seemed to affect the whole offense. Between foul trouble and the blowout affording Mike Brown an opportunity to rest him, Kyrie played just 23 minutes in this one, but he was really, really good in those 23 minutes.

We could go on and on with all the stats that show how the Cavaliers dominated this game, but you get the idea. Yes, the Sixers are really bad and their season is completely bottoming out. They are playing now the way everyone thought they would play all season long. But that shouldn’t take away the effort and relentlessness the Cavaliers played with in this game.

Now the team returns home Wednesday night to face yet another highly beatable opponent in the Orlando Magic. It’s up to this team to keep their focus and keep doing the things they can do to win these games and build as much momentum as possible heading into the March gauntlet. Five in a row is nice, but six in a row is better.

  • mgbode

    nice to see them with the shovel and digging their way out of this hole they played themselves into. seriously, what happened between Irving & Waiters over the past couple of weeks that made them buddy-buddy? was Chris Grant stealing their phones and sending hateful texts to each other?

    also, I’ll bet every single Cavs fan (including me) thought “well, that was nice while it lasted” when Dion landed. absolutely thought he was done. very glad that it appears a lesser injury.

  • RGB

    10 and 11 for Bennett…

    “Better, closer, warmer.”

  • RGB

    Baby steps.
    I just want to see them raise their level of competency, and show a little more fight.

  • mgbode

    24min / 1 PF – also a nice note for him.

    Seriously, did they all hate Chris Grant? Was this a giant conspiracy?

  • RGB

    I hope Gilbert keeps Griffin.
    I’m waiting for the Mike Brown factor to rear it’s ugly head…

  • EyesAbove

    The Sixers are unspeakably bad, not to rain on the parade, just sayin..

  • RGB

    Baby steps.

  • Harv 21

    Agree, Kyrie played great. My epiphany about him last night as he picked up his third foul in the first half was that he looked like he was trying to defend MCW but isn’t always sure how to defend, technically. Like it’s not a part of the game he has ever worked on.

    Nice to see an opponent as disinterested as the Cavs were 3 weeks ago. Tristan exerted so much early effort in the paint that Philly’s big men essentially gave up, unwilling to battle him. Even Zeller was exerting his will a little in there.

    So sorry Waiters went out when he did. When animated like last night he not only does lots of things well (rebounding!) he clearly wants to share the ball and glory. The blind kick-out from the lane to CJ Miles for a 3 when he could have forced a drive shows he’s a good kind of alpha – he may want to run the show but also wants to make the right play. If he and Kyrie can somehow find a way to mesh gears …not sure it’s possible unless Kyrie becomes more judicious with his dribbling exhibitions but man, what an explosion of offense that might be.

    Last: had zero to do with the win, but who is this svelte Anthony Bennett kid? He has a variety of skills, and is noticeably light on his feet for a guy that big. Will be interesting to see how quickly the “epic draft-bust” narrative might turn into a “Jenny Craig redemption” narrative.

  • RGB

    Management has curtailed Bennett’s midnight pizza runs he was known for in college.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I was absolutely in full on freak out mode. I 100% believed he was done for the year, because really, that would have been the most Cavs outcome ever.

    Also, pretty sure Chris Grant is confirmed Lucille from Arrested Development. Always playing their children off one another.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I agree with your comments on Kyrie’s defense, but to be fair, MCW is 6’7″….he’s an insanely difficult PG for someone like Kyrie to defend. But Mike Brown’s sudden change in PnR defensive principles really allowed Kyrie to recover a lot better off the pick. It slowed down the lane attack much better than the hard show had been doing.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    They are what the Cavs were 3 week ago and at various other times throughout this season. No question about it. But if I’m going to kill the Cavs for not showing up in these games, I have to also credit them for doing their job. It’s progress.

  • Harv 21

    Yep, guy is one tough cover, even for better defenders than Kyrie. At least last night Kyrie made concerted efforts to move his feet. If he will expend energy there he can then learn what else he can do to bother his man.

  • mgbode

    I turned the game off, walked away for awhile. Nervously checked a couple sites for what felt like the inevitable bad news (including this one), didn’t see anything, so I turned the game back on and enjoyed the rest of the game. The first shot showing Waiters on the bench was a huge relief (though I’m still nervous until official results come out).

  • Dave

    This is much closer to the Kyrie Irving that needs to show up every game, and I hope he takes it to heart. He really just needs a few principles drilled into him:
    1. Taking easy shots and drilling them is better than chucking up prayers and making some of them (because most NBA players will make a few crazy shots).
    2. Passing well to set up your teammates is better than trying to do it all yourself. No NBA player (possibly excepting Wilt Chamberlain) has ever single-handedly won a game.
    3. Defense is how you get the ball into your hands without the other side scoring. I know, it seems obvious, but better defense means more scoring chances means more points.
    4. That Mike Brown guy? I know he gets a lot of flak, but he probably knows at least as much as you do about how to win in the NBA.
    5. Every game is an audition for your future career. Just because you were thought to be good before you were drafted doesn’t mean you’ll continue to be thought to be good (and if you don’t believe that, talk to Andrea Bargnani).

  • mgbode

    a little harsh given how he has been playing lately. Kyrie seems to have taken the Grant firing personally (as has the team). It’s as if firing Grant flashed a lightbulb on the team (hey, you just got that guy fired because you are not playing the right way) and they have not only won games, but continually have gotten better playing basketball since that moment.

    I’m still cautious (5 games isn’t that long), but it’s just been really refreshing. And, getting above the “7seed of death” is still possible (not likely, but possible). We have even gained 5.5 games on Atlanta during this stretch (5 games out of the 5seed). Crazy how bad the East is, but that should be our focus. I will gladly take a 1st round matchup with Toronto or Chicago.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Dion tweeted that nothing is torn, which is the biggest thing. He’ll still probably miss some time (he’s definitely out tonight), but overall, he dodged a major bullet.

  • mgbode

    I agree. Nothing torn means that he won’t miss the rest of the season or linger into next year (whew!).

    But, hyperextensions still have a wide-range or severity too. If he woke up this morning and there’s a grapefruit on his knee, then he may be out a couple weeks (or more). If it’s just sore, then he may be fine or just a little limited.

    Just my cautious mind setting proper expectations for him.

  • Pat Leonard

    Next time, Dion may need to just be impolite and use the people sitting on the floor to break his fall. I know it’s not their fault that they’re sitting there, but it might be the only way the NBA is going to learn that those people need to be moved back further, not just for the players’ safety, but for their safety too.

  • Pat Leonard

    Earlier in the season, it seemed like everything had to go right in order for the Cavs to win, and even if they did everything right, they were just barely winning those games. Maybe that’s the definition of a team that plays bad defense. At any rate, the defense has been so much better during this 5-game winning streak and it seems like only a few players have to have excellent games in order for the Cavs to get a win. Jarrett Jack was flat out awful last night. Delly and Deng also had games they both might want to forget. It didn’t matter… the rout was on. I was really hating the Cavs as a team and wasn’t enjoying how they were playing. Since the magical firing of Chris Grant, who may have had nothing to do with anything, this team has become so much more fun to watch.

  • Harv 21

    I’m also getting an exaggerated, maybe unfair dislike of Jack. In certain ways he plays like he’s older and exhausted: too many bad decisions or lazy passes, indifferent defense, and sudden spasms where it’s like he remembers he hasn’t scored in a while so it’s time to toss up any sort of awkward shot. I like his tear drop but, unlike a Shaun Livingston, he doesn’t always go to it in the flow of the game. So many turnovers where he’s staring down a teammate after throwing the ball away.

  • EyesAbove

    Not complaining, progress is progress.

  • Steve

    Playing the Sixers can fix a lot of woes. We’ll see if the issues pop back up with that March schedule.

  • TSR3000

    They are almost making me regret not getting the NBA package this season. Almost.

  • http://www.zfcomics.com dgriff13

    Was pretty dang happy to catch this game (with my bosses 7th row tickets) when the Cavs came to town. Gave my mom the other ticket for her birthday. God, the Sixers are awful. Overheard behind me:
    “Man, these cavs look like a playoff team.. *checks phone, presumably for record* … oh.”
    “Irving is just.. sick. My gawd.”
    And finally, as they were leaving with 5 mins left: “I can’t take it anymore, enjoy your game, Cavs fans”

    Yup. For a suspended moment in time, my mom and I just sat there and grinned ear to ear.

    Dion’s dunk was so smooth and fast my eyes didn’t believe it. He looked to be in such pain, I was shocked that he was joking around with Kyrie 3 mins later. Out a week+, I guess we shouldn’t complain. But that dunk got more of a reaction from Sixers fans than their own team, how sad.