No Kyrie Irving, no cry. In his Cleveland Cavaliers debut as a starter point guard Jeremy Pargo exploded out of nowhere for 28 points. To make it an even more impressive performance Pargo lit it up from almost everywhere on the floor, finishing the night 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) and 4-of-8 (50 percent) from beyond the arc. As a collective unit the Cavaliers shot lights out from three, finished with an overall 56.5 percent. The long ball and Pargo’s first game as an intern for the injured Irving propelled the Cavs (3-8) to a 92-83 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers (7-5) Wednesday night.
Five Cavaliers finished in double figures, as Cleveland came together as a collective unit, even without their best player, for the first time since the season opener against the Washington Wizards. Despite the outburst in offensive performances from players who are usually just side notes, the Cavaliers made up for Irving’s offensive presence with a tough, hard-nosed defensive effort. Keeping the 76ers to 83 points was a challenge for a team that ranks at the bottom of the league in defense. After 12 minutes of play, the Cavaliers were able to hold Philadelphia to 17 percent shooting from the field. They finished the night shooting 36.0 percent from the field as a unit.
The defensive trend was constant throughout the first quarter, as the Cavs outrebounded 19-7 and led Philadelphia 28-15 going into the second quarter. Anderson Varejao once again dazzled on the boards, finishing with 19 rebounds along with a double-double (10 points).
The bench, which usually can’t keep up with the opposing team, stood their ground in the second frame, as they were only outscored by one point and carried the lead into halftime. Omri Casspi, C.J. Miles and Tyler Zeller were the major substitute contributors, and Casspi helped jumpstart the bench in a way. In three straight series of plays, Casspi threw the hammer down, recorded a block and then hustled to the other end of the court and converted on a three. Zeller also helped keep the game from slipping away from the Cavs early on from a defensive standpoint, and finished with six boards.
Once the second half began, it seemed that things were starting to slip away, and the Cavaliers were looking like the Cavaliers of late. Jason Richardson started to get a hot hand, and the Wine and Gold were once again reeling. Richardson finished with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Jrue Holiday also finished with 16 points, but their scoring efforts weren’t enough to cancel out the furious run that the trio of Pargo, Miles and Dion Waiters went on.
The three helped lead the Cavs to a 13-0 run in a 1:30 span, and the aforementioned players combined for 11 of those points. Three treys in a row put the Wine and Gold up 92-77, putting a perfect imprint on a win that helped break their six-game losing streak. Threes were a big theme on Wednesday, and Alonzo Gee helped set the pace from the start. After knocking down two long balls in the first quarter, he finished 4-of-6 from three-point range and tallied 14 points.
Despite his somewhat impressive stat line (16 points, six assists and four rebounds), he shot poorly. I was impressed with nearly every other players’ effort (despite lack of shooting, Tristan Thompon and Zeller hit the boards hard), besides Waiters. Since getting off to his hot shooting start, he has only managed to shoot 16-of-67 (24.0 percent). Waiters will be asked to shoot a lot with Irving out of the lineup for four weeks, but he needs to somehow find his hot hand.
The Cavaliers will embark on a road trip, this one of the three-game variety, with their next matchup being with the Orlando Magic at 7 p.m. on Friday.