Unbelievable. That’s the word for it. An out-of-the-blue win for the Cavs, after losing leading scorer Kyrie Irving to injury. Jeremy Pargo, first of all, deserves most of the credit for the win. This third-string point guard, this young, unproven player who Byron Scott only promoted to starter the day of the game, showed some serious offensive chops. He hit jumpers from all over the floor, got to the rack with ease, and set up his teammates fairly well all game. Final stats: 28 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. He also played great defense, going hard in man-on-man D when matched up with Jrue Holiday or Evan Turner and racking up a steal and a few tipped balls. The other, less surprising, star of this game was Anderson Varejao. He locked down the post, grabbed nineteen boards (7 offensive!) and was generally awesome as usual. Dion Waiters played alright, if inefficiently. He only shot 7-22 from the field, but Dion also put up 6 assists to 2 turnovers and played solid defense. However, the Cavs have had some great individual performances this year in losses. Remember the game in Brooklyn? What made this one different was the bench. C.J. Miles and co. had their best performance of the year by far. Details later. Some bullet points on the game:
- Jeremy Pargo could be the backup point guard the Cavs have been looking for. Obviously we can’t expect him to score like this on a nightly basis, but anything near this type of offensive punch might be just what the Cavs need off the bench when Kyrie comes back. His jumper was clearly falling tonight (4-8 on 3-pointers) at an unsustainable rate, but that’s not really what matters. He was getting to the hole with remarkable consistency against a solid defensive team, and an athletic backcourt. That type of penetration led to open shots on the perimeter for the Cavs all night, and it made a huge difference for the second unit. The open 3-pointers were a world apart from the contested fade-aways that the Cavs had been getting with Donald Sloan on the floor. Let’s hope Pargo keeps it up.
- C.J. Miles may have just broken out of his slump in a big way. The release on his jumper still seems a little slow, but he was hitting it with regularity tonight, and he looked much more comfortable in the offense. If his perimeter play can remain close to this for the rest of the season, the team will be helped tremendously. Omri Casspi also looked decent, though he’s clearly still dealing with some shaky nerves. He seemed to lack confidence in his dribbling and shooting. In short, he played much like I did on the 7th grade basketball team. Needless to say, I played sparingly. As does he. I think that Byron Scott hasn’t been entirely fair in his treatment of Casspi, and while Kyrie is out, I would like to see him get some actual run.
- Tristan Thompson was pretty awful, unfortunately, but his line wasn’t anything remotely surprising. He rebounded well, played solid defense, and shot 1-7 from the field. We won, so I’ll try and keep this positive. He made 2-3 free throws! Someone call Rick Barry! Tyler Zeller was slightly worse, but I think he wore his gas-mask a little more jauntily than Tristan, so props to him. Any ideas for nicknames as long as they still both have the masks?
- Alonzo Gee dropped 14 points and shot 5-9 from the field, 4-6 from 3-point range, and played some truly spectacular defense. in particular, there was a fastbreak block that needs to be seen to be believed. Really, exactly the kind of game Chris Grant payed him for. If he can keep putting up numbers like this, and playing defense the way he does, we can all pretend like we’ve never heard of Nicolas Batum before.
-Luke Walton did not play tonight. Hallelujah. Byron Scott, thank you.