Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins displayed differing mindsets in their third NBA Summer League game together. Each made an instant impact in his own way, helping the Cavaliers defeat the 76ers 86-77 in front of a packed crowd at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
Bennett came out firing offensively, while Wiggins deferred to his fellow Canadian, preferring to play lockdown defense and display his otherworldly physical gifts. Together, the 2013 and ’14 No. 1 overall draft picks each gave fans glimpses of why they were so highly touted coming out of college.
Though Matthew Dellavedova led the way with a game-high 19 points, Bennett and Wiggins were who the people came to see, and each impressed. Bennett played 32 minutes, scoring 11 of his 14 points in an entertaining first half, while Wiggins stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 28 minutes.
Considered a major disappointment after a forgettable rookie season, the slim-downed Bennett once again looked sprightly in NBA Summer League play. Brimming with confidence after two previous solid performances in Vegas, Bennett looked for his shot early and often, hoisting up a handful of jumpers, including a difficult fade-away from the wing which he sank for his first points. However, as expected with all youngsters, he had his ups-and-downs. In the first five minutes alone, Bennett threw a bad pass for a turnover, took a wild shot in the lane that hit the backboard and was called for a moving screen.
To his credit Bennett continued to attack, securing a beautiful touch pass over the top of the defense from Wiggins for an easy dunk, helping the Cavaliers jump out to a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
In contrast, Wiggins picked his spots offensively — scoring just three points in the first half — instead showcasing his incredible defense and athleticism throughout the game. He was a force defensively, moving his feet to cause one turnover, contesting perimeter shots and blocking or deflecting several shots from the help-side. He showed great effort by hustling to intercept a pass to halt a Sixers fastbreak. Yet everyone will remember one electrifying sequence that reminded the basketball world why scouts have been salivating over the Toronto native. With three minutes remaining in the half, Wiggins used his patented right-to-left spin move to free himself for a hammering dunk, sending the crowd into an uproar:
Ten seconds later, Wiggins, just 19 years old, came from the opposite side of the floor to reject Nerlens Noel at the rim. He finished off the half by using his seven-foot wingspan to corral an errant pass, igniting a fastbreak dunk for Bennett to beat the buzzer as the Cavs closed on a 15-4 run to lead 48-29 at halftime.
Bennett opened the third quarter with a sweet-stroking midrange pull-up, but the Sixers used a full-court zone pressure scheme to rattle the Cavs. David Blatt’s squad committed 23 turnovers (Bennett had five and Wiggins had four) versus a measly six assists, a sloppy performance to say the least. Philly scored 10 straight to slice the lead to 11 with the aid of Noel’s menacing defense. The sixth pick in last year’s draft showed why many thought he should have been the pick over Bennett, garnering two steals and four blocks while altering numerous other shot attempts.
The Cavs responded using a 12-2 run to extend the lead to 62-41. Wiggins scored the final five points of the spurt with an and-1 layup off a rip-through drive from the elbow, followed by a jumper from the right wing where he elevated over two defenders. Good luck trying to block that man’s jumper; he gets as much air as anyone but needs more consistency with his results.
Wiggins did have a few sloppy moments with his ball-handling and decision-making but overall performed admirably, swaying some fans on Twitter in the “trade him for Kevin Love” camp to re-think their position.
The 76ers pressure defense allowed them to cut the lead to four midway through the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers held on down the stretch by making free throws, finishing 30 of 38 (79 percent) from the charity stripe.
Dellavedova had an efficient game at point guard for the Cavs, shooting 6 of 9 from the field and 6 of 7 from the line. He struggled against pressure (four turnovers) but played better when paired with the speedy Will Cherry. My favorite play from the Aussie came in the final quarter when he split the defense off the pick-and-roll and finished with a floater in the lane. He should be considered a favorite to land one of the backup guard spots.
Cleveland is now finished with NBA Summer League pool play and must wait for the conclusion of tomorrow’s games before receiving its schedule for the rest of the week.