CLEVELAND, OH – The Cleveland Cavaliers (12-23, 10-8 home) went into Tuesday night’s contest against the Philadelphia 76ers (12-23, 5-14 away) ranking dead last in assists per game with a mark of 18.8 dimes per game. Granted, the 76ers also entered the matchup of lowly Eastern Conference teams with a dead-last ranking of their own, giving up 111.1 points per game. After riding a four-game road winning streak against Western Conference foes into their hometown on Monday night, the real 76ers D–one that has been one of the most porous groups in the League this season—showed up, allowing the Timberwolves to log 126 on them.
That same group showed up in Cleveland for the Cavs’ final home game before embarking on a five-game trip out West of their own. Behind a barrage of three-pointers in the first half by C.J. Miles—a franchise-record eight to be exact—the Wine & Gold buried Philadelphia early and often. With beautiful ball movement, unselfish play and the incredible stroke of Miles, Cleveland downed the 76ers, 111-93, on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena for the team’s most lopsided victory of the season.
“We had a whale of a game from a lot of individuals,” head coach Mike Brown said in the postgame presser. “Our two bigs have continued to be impactful in the game on both ends, getting double-doubles. And C.J. C.J. shot the basketball very well.”
Miles finished with a game-high 34 points, connecting on 10 of his 14 three-point attempts His 10 three-pointers on Tuesday night were tied a season high in the NBA.
“His performance shooting the ball was fun to watch, but the neatest part about it was guys were finding him at the right time and he was stepping in and knocking down some very good looks from the perimeter,” Brown added.
Philadelphia was never close in this contest, and for a team that has been known for blowing multiple leads over the past few seasons, this was an impressive step in the right direction in the (short-lived) post-Andrew Bynum era. Shooting 60.0 percent from the field as a team, Cleveland’s success stemmed from something that has been missing all season long: a flowing offense.
The frontcourt duo of Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, who have had their roles more defined ever since Bynum was suspended from the team, benefited most from the smooth transitions from defense to offense. The two combined for 16 points and nine rebounds in the first quarter, while shooting a joint 8 of 10 from the field. Miles, as you can guess, also profited from the generous play of the Cavs, making good on all five of his three-point attempts in the first quarter (also a franchise-record for the first frame). Surprisingly, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters were the most selfless of the Cleveland players on Tuesday, accounting for six of their combined 16 assists on the night in the first frame.
“Dion’s a guy that has a great feel for the game of basketball, and I don’t know many guys who can stay in front of him when he decides to get into the paint,” Brown said regarding the play of Waiters on Tuesday night. “And tonight I thought he got into the paint often, and when he did, when he drew attention, he did a great job at not playing in the crowd. He got rid of the ball in a timely manner and he found his teammates for some easy looks.”
Although the offense was taking most of the glory because of the box score, the Cleveland defense really stepped up to limit some of the big-time shooters on Philadelphia. Going into the contest 76ers small forward Evan Turner was riding a hot streak, averaging 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists over the past five games. He was cooled down by an all-around stout defensive performance, forced into shooting 2 of 13 from the field in the game. The only player able to get into any sort of rhythm for Philadelphia was guard Michael Carter-Williams, who finished with 33 points, five assists and six rebounds, while shooting 13 of 25 (52.0 percent) from the field.
Before the second half even got underway, Miles had already surpassed his season-high in points. Tallying 24 with Cleveland up 23 points on the 76ers heading into the final 24 minutes of play, high scorers Irving and Waiters, along with Matthew Dellavedova, took on a somewhat unfamiliar role with Miles having the hot hand. The trio of guards combined for 16 of the team’s 21 first-half assists, which accounted for 77.8 percent of Cleveland’s 27 makes in the same time span.
“It was good to see them get out and share the basketball the way they did, especially in that first half,” Brown said. “We talked to our guys, we talked to (the media) about trying to increase our assists off of our made field goals, and tonight was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Shooting well over 50 percent from the field heading into the final two quarters of play (55.1 percent to be exact), the Cavaliers never let up on either end of the ball in finishing off the 76ers. The onslaught continued, as Varejao and Thompson continued to do garbage duty on the boards. The duo had totaled 24 rebounds by the end of the third frame and didn’t need to make much of an appearance in the fourth quarter to help the Wine & Gold sustain the rebounding advantage. The team out-rebounded Philadelphia 58-38 on the night, something that has been missing effort-wise from the Cavaliers for some time.
Nearing the end of the fourth frame the Cavaliers started to give their backups time, allowing the likes of Sergey Karasev, Henry Sims and Carrick Felix to take the court. Philadelphia still never inched closer in the fourth at any point, and after two Miles’ three-pointers, the amazing one-man performance had come to an end with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. C.J. took to the bench following a standing ovation from those at the Q with the Wine & Gold up 31 points, as the reserves rode the rest of the game out.
“Tonight we got a little closer to competing for competing for 48 minutes, but when you have the lulls, especially lulls at the wrong times against certain teams, it can cost you a ball game,” Brown said of the recent play of the team. “We (have) lost a lot of close games because we competed and we gave ourselves a chance to win them.”
The Cavaliers will head out West for a five-game road trip starting Friday in Utah against the Jazz. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
PG Kyrie Irving – 16 points and eight assists, while shooting 6 of 9 from the field and 2 of 4 from three
Irving played the role of distributor for the most part Tuesday night, and I don’t think many Cavs fans had a problem with that (especially given the EN FUEGO state Miles was in). In his comeback to the court after missing three straight games with the left knee contusion he suffered on New Year’s Eve, Irving was as efficient as he has ever been in regards to being a full-on court general. It’s good to have Irving back and to see that he hasn’t missed a step since missed just over a week of action.
SG C.J. Miles – 34 points, five rebounds and two steals, while shooting 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) from the field and 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) from three
Miles was ON FIRE Tuesday night at the Q. The Cavs shooting guard made a team-record eight three-pointers in the first half and also set a season-high in points (24) before the third quarter even got underway. The streaky shooter has been extremely important for the Wine & Gold in regards to opening up the offense with consistent movement and sharp shooting from beyond the arc. He has been an offensive spark plug for the Cavs as of late, averaging 27.5 points and shooting 61.3 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from three over the past two home games. Starting Miles at the two and having Dion come off the bench is starting to look like it’s paying off for Coach Brown.
SF Earl Clark – Two points, while shooting 1 of 6 (16.7 percent) from the field and 0 of 2 from three
Think if Luol Deng would have been ready to play tonight for the Wine & Gold. Clark started off the game with a missed layup and an eyesore of a three-point attempt, which made Brown go with lineups consisting of a combination of Matthew Dellavedova, Irving, Miles and Waiters instead of playing Alonzo Gee and Clark at the three. The ball movement thrived because of this decision, so I’m more than OK with what transpired after eight minutes of Clark in the first half.
PF Tristan Thompson – 12 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive), while shooting 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) from the field
Thompson has really stepped into a new role for the Cavaliers offensively, and that was apparent early on. Take, for example, the 12-footer, which has now become a part of his arsenal it seems, that he made at the nine-minute mark in the first quarter. It was a turnaround shot (no jump), and I hope to see more of this, especially since it seems that the switch to right hand is really paying off. There was also an instance on one of the many C.J. Miles’ 3s in the first quarter when Waiters and Thompson were driving down the court. Thompson drew attention by heading into the lane leaving Miles wide open for a make. Great play by TT.
C Anderson Varejao – 18 points and 14 rebounds, while shooting 8 of 10 from the field
Wild Thing did some wild things early on to start the game. He accounted for Cleveland’s first six points, and one of those buckets was a coast-to-coast dunk with some nifty moves from the big guy. It was a fun performance overall tonight, and Andy really set the pace for an amusing night from that point on.
SG Dion Waiters – 12 points, eight assists and four rebounds, while shooting 5 of 14 (35.7 percent) from the field and 1 of 4 from three
Dion the Distributor. Has a nice ring to it, eh? Well, we probably won’t see an effort like this one every night from Waiters, but it’s an encouraging sign for Wine & Gold fans. He dished out a ton of great dimes tonight, and even though you can’t see on the stat sheet how amazing each pass was, his career-high eight assists were all as good as the next. His court vision was on point tonight, as he found open player after open player all throughout the first three periods. Hopefully the ball movement stays up, because Dion is a big part of it now it seems.
I had the opportunity to attend the Q as a member of the media for Right Down Euclid. Here are some quotes that didn’t fit my story, but I felt were interesting enough to include in the Coach’s Corner:
Coach Brown on what the team needs to continue to do to be a competitive team
There are no moral victories in this business, but if we can keep (passing and competing), in my opinion, we’re going to keep getting a little better each time we step out on the floor.
Coach Brown on what he thought his team did especially well Tuesday night
One of the things I thought we did a decent job of was trying to limit their fast break points. I think they had (seven) at halftime and got a little sloppy in the second half, but that was one of the things we had talked about. You give our guys credit, they did a nice job in that area, they did a nice job trying to box out and limiting them to eight offensive rebounds.
Coach Brown on the passing effort against Indiana on Sunday night
Even (against) Indiana, we felt like we moved the ball well. We just didn’t convert on a lot of shots, so it was great to see our guys move the ball the way we did. We got a little sloppy with it in the second half obviously with just having eight assists and a handful of turnovers; I think we had 13 turnovers in the second half. But sometimes that’s to be expected.
Coach Brown on C.J. Miles finding his way in the starting lineup
It’s gotten to a point where he settled down and he’s taking some great shots for us. But just as importantly, I thought earlier in the year he was defending at a high level, especially on the weak side of the floor, and that has come back to the forefront a little bit.
Coach Brown on the competiveness of his team as of late
The last time I think we didn’t compete was at Atlanta at the beginning of December, but beyond that I felt we competed. There might have been a lot of times where we didn’t do it for 48 minutes, and that’s natural, especially when you’re learning to do that.