some random thoughts from the Cavaliers game versus the Sixers...
There we go. The Cavs actually beat a team they should've beat. Once they got the lead, they never let the Sixers back into it; they kept the pressure up and kept going inside.
Once they got the lead... The game started out with the same old problems: no passing and too many jumpshots. The Cavs were down double digits late in the quarter and were down by 9 at the quarter break. LeBron was 0-4 in the first period, with 3 of the shots coming from the outside.
The second quarter basically was the game. Cleveland out scored Philly 35-13 in the second period, taking a 9 point deficit and turning into a 13 point lead. They began the quarter with a 16-3 run (with LeBron on the bench) and never let up.
Zydrunas Ilguaskas had his best game of the year. By far. Big Z finished with 18 points, 15 boards (12 offensive) and 5(!) blocks. Sure, some of the offensive boards were his volleyball tips, but no matter, he was involved and active all game long. Z got a season high 17 shots and got a lot of touches inside. He also was diving all over the court for loose balls. Again, say what you will about the guy (and many do), but he puts forth effort. The big thing for him this was the fact that he didn't commit any stupid fouls; no dumb reach-ins or over-the-backs. He kept himself on the court.
Z's defense started the play of the game. Z blocked former Cavalier Alan Henderson's shot and started a fast break while culminated with a Damon Jones to LeBron James alley-oop. Just fantastic. This is the type of play I always try to point out when people say the Cavs can't be a running team with Ilgauskas at center. Big men start the break with blocked shots and rebounds, they usually don't finish them.
Eric Snow played really well. After a so-so game versus Indiana, Eric responded with 11 points on 4-7 shooting. When the Cavs get contributions from the center and point guard positions they are really tough to beat. Snow handled the ball much more this game and drove the ball to the rim, making the Sixers guard him. These drive opened up easy buckets for his teammates and Snow finished with 8 assists.
But LeBron had more assists than Snow. LeBron finished with 11 dimes and 25 points. After his 0-4 first period he came out focussed and just went towards the hoop (he finished the game 10-20). With Snow handling the ball more, James didn't have be the playmaker all the time and he got some easy baskets off cuts to the hoop.
The Cavaliers had 22 free throw attempts, 28 assists and were 8-16 from 3 point range. They spread the ball around, got to the rim and didn't force many 3s (after hoisting 25 versus Toronto).
This is a nice win, but Philly isn't exactly a great team. Of course, neither is Indiana, Toronto, Memphis, Boston, Atlanta or Charlotte. Though, it does feel nice that the Cavaliers actually beat a team they should beat.
Gooden was neither fantastic nor awful. Drew actually had an in-between game; usually he's either close to an all-star or non-existent. Versus Philly he was delightfully average: 13 points on 6-11 shooting plus 8 boards. This was the first game I've seen all year that Gooden kept his head in the game when he didn't have a great first period.
No David Wesley! Shannon Brown started the game in place of Wesely and looked every bit the rookie that he is. At this point of the season, Daniel Gibson seems to have more confidence than Brown. Shannon seemed to be rushing his shots and he also missed 3-4 free throws. Much to my chagrin, Gibson didn't see any court time, after playing 21 and 9 versus Toronto and Indiana respectively.
The bench was fantastic. Damon Jones continued his strong play (3-5 from 3, 12 points). Sasha Pavlovic had 8 points and 3 assists (one came on a "great eye fake" according to Austin Carr) and even guarded AI at times. Donyell Marshall only played 10 minutes but shot 2-3 from 3 and was a factor. And, as usual, Anderson Varejao had a strong game: 11 points, 8 rebounds and drew a charge or two. Did I mention that David Wesley didn't play? Delightful.
The Cavs are off until Wednesday. Hopefully, with another 3 days off, Hughes will be back for the game versus the Knicks. Cleveland then has a revenge game versus at Atlanta on Friday night (and home games against Toronto and Indiana the following week) and a tough game at Houston on Saturday. Let's hope Hughes can get his game legs back during the Knick and Atlanta games so he can be ready to chase Tracy McGrady around on Saturday night.