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Sunday, November 26, 2006

All's Well That Ends Well: Cavs Overcome Slow Start, Beat the 76ers, 108-95

For the second night in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers showed that how you finish is a lot more important that how you start. The Philadelphia 76ers roared out to a 25-16 first quarter lead in Saturday's game at Quicken Loans Arena but the Cavaliers outscored them 92-70 the rest of the way to post a 108-95 win; on Friday night, the Cavaliers led the Pacers by 15 after the first quarter but lost the game by ten. LeBron James had 25 points and 11 assists against the 76ers. Zydrunas Ilgauskas set season-highs in points (18 ), rebounds (15) and blocked shots (five) and tied franchise records for offensive rebounds in a half (10) and in a game (12). Allen Iverson had a game-high 31 points but shot only 10-28 from the field. He was guarded most of the night by former backcourt mate Eric Snow. The Cavs' Larry Hughes sat out as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. His spot in the starting lineup had been filled by David Wesley, but Cavs Coach Mike Brown benched Wesley in favor of rookie Shannon Brown. Brown scored three points on 1-6 shooting from the field but Wesley did not see any action. Damon Jones picked up the slack, coming off the bench to score 12 points, shooting 3-5 from three point range.

Philadelphia power forward Shavlik Randolph was the unlikely star in the early going, scoring 10 first quarter points on 4-4 shooting. He finished the night with 12 points. After the game, Sixers Coach Maurice Cheeks said, "We tried to post the ball early to Shav and he scored...if it's working, then we continue to go to him but obviously that was not going to continue (for the whole game)."

Cleveland tied the game at 26 with 8:58 remaining in the second quarter and did not trail again after the 5:04 mark in that period. The Cavaliers led 51-38 at halftime. Ilgauskas already had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. Jones also had 12 points at the break, while Iverson had 14 on 5-15 shooting.

James rebounded from a poor first half (six points on 2-9 shooting, four turnovers) to score 12 points on 5-7 shooting in the third quarter. Iverson scored nine points in the period on 3-5 shooting and the Cavaliers led 82-70 going into the final quarter. The 76ers never got closer than eight points in the fourth quarter, done in both by poor shooting (7-19, .368) and an inability to stop the Cavaliers, who shot 11-20 (.550).

In his postgame standup, Cheeks said, "Our turnovers killed us in the second quarter--turnovers and quick shots...Damon Jones made some shots in the second quarter that kind of turned the tide. The way we started the game--our second quarter was not like that."

"I don't think that we carried the team, but we came in with a lot of energy...We've shown all year long that when we are able to execute and share the basketball among one another that we are usually able to shoot a high percentage," Jones said of the Cleveland bench's contributions to the win. He also stressed the importance of getting Ilgauskas involved: "Hopefully this game will get him going back on the right track." He added that the 7-3 center has proven that he is capable of putting up double doubles on a regular basis and that the Cavs must take advantage of this.

James echoed Jones' comments about feeding the ball to Ilgauskas: "It got to the point where we just said 'screw the offense, we've got to get Z the ball.' There were some calls we made that had nothing to do with our offense, but we have to find a way to get Z in a comfort zone. It was good to see that."

Notes From Courtside:

World B. Free, who played for both the Cavaliers and the 76ers, is currently Director of Player Development/Ambassador of 76ers Basketball. Free was one of the top scorers in the NBA in the late 70s and early 80s and prior to the game he showed that he can still shoot the ball, draining many three pointers as players from both teams warmed up. He told me that he enjoyed his time as a Cavalier, particularly the challenge of bringing some life back to the franchise after the dark days of the Ted Stepien era.

One of the loudest cheers of the night came when his face was shown on the giant overhead scoreboard. When fans know who you are and still cheer for you two decades after you retired, you know that you did something right.


The scoreboard operator found a couple clever ways to encourage boos while various 76ers shot free throws. One time he put a University of Michigan logo up; another time he showed a Pittsburgh Steelers logo.

Also, between the third and fourth quarters of Cavs games, the arena soundsystem booms "Hang on Sloopy" in honor of Ohio State football. This often gets the loudest cheer of the night.

This much is clear: Ohio is still first and foremost a football state; maybe if LeBron and the Cavs bring an NBA title to Cleveland that might change.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:24 AM



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