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.