The Cavs went into the game without Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson, two of their regular players. They scored only 88 points last night, well below their season average of 104. They shot 41% from the field, well below the 48% they had been averaging. They were outrebounded.
In other words, they had Philadelphia right where they wanted them.
Unleashing a suffocating defense, the Cavs cruised to their 11th straight victory last night, an 88-72 win over the Sixers at Quicken Loans Arena. With that 11th consecutive win, the Cavs tied a team record. They also improved their record to 20-3 ... man, that's NBA Live stuff. Teams don't start the season 20-3. (Including, lamentably, the Boston Celtics, who won again last night to improve their NBA-best record to 22-2.) The victory also extended the Cavs' divisional lead over Detroit to 7.5 games, the largest lead by any Cavs team in history.
LeBron James led the way as usual with 28 points. Anderson Varejao, starting at center in place of the injured Zydrunas Ilgauskas, scored 17, and Delonte West added 16. The Sixers were paced by Willie Green and Andre Iguodala, who scored 19 and 16, respectively.
It's the NBA. Where an .870 team that is a game and a half out of the conference lead happens.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
The Only Basketball Column To Mention Robert Gates: As President-Elect Obama continues to build his Cabinet, he may want to consider Coach Mike Brown for the position of Secretary of Defense. In the past five games, the Cavs have posted their three best defensive games; and last night's 72 points scored by the Sixers was the lowest total by a Cavs opponent this season.
Making that number all the more impressive is that the Sixers scored 25 points on 50% shooting in the first quarter. From there, the Cavs held them to 14, 19, and 14 points in the final three quarters. High school teams put more points on the board.
Wild Starting Thing: In his first start of the season, Varejao had a solid game, with his 17 points (hitting 7 of 10 shots from the field) and seven rebounds. His offensive game is several steps above where it was last year - he can hit jumpers often enough to be a threat, and he has also been more dangerous near the hoop (including a LeBron-worthy reverse layup early in the fourth quarter). He also committed only one foul in 35 minutes of action, which has to be a personal record.
Don't look now, but Andy just may be playing his way into that $10 million per season contract.
Super-Bron!: Unlike recent games, the Cavs had trouble in the third quarter: they scored only 17 points, and only their defense kept their lead (which was 13 points at the half) pretty much intact. Well, their defense and one LeBron James, who scored ten points in the period. In a period where almost no other Cavs were making shots (Delonte West scored all seven of the remaining points in the period; the rest of the Cavs missed three pointers, jumpers, and even a dunk; yes, you would be correct in guessing Ben Wallace on that last one), LeBron made several, most from the top of the key. And when he wasn't scoring...
Play Of The Night: ... he was swatting layups by Iguodala. With the score 56-43, Iguodala went in for what he thought would be an uncontested layup. James caught him from behind and smacked the ball off the glass. He'll be at least second-team All-Defense this year. At least.
Line Of The Night: During the second quarter, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert donned a headset and joined the broadcast crew. (It's his team. You'd do the same thing if you owned it.) Besides raising legitimate questions for discussion (after Cavs rookie Darnell Jackson was whistled for a foul, Gilbert wondered if a seven-year veteran would have gotten the same call), he got in the best line of the evening, saying that he liked everything about Cavs GM Danny Ferry "except his mustard suits". Having seen one or two of those outfits, I'd like to say that Gilbert is 10,000% right.
Who's At The Four: This past June, on the evening of the draft, Ferry traded for the rights to Jackson. Cavs fans everywhere said, "who?" (Later that evening, he also traded for the rights to another draft pick, Sasha Kaun. His name actually is "who?") With the injury to Z, Jackson looks to be the beneficiary of more playing time, and he's making a case to stick around. Last night, he grabbed a team-high eight rebounds (including five on the offensive end - it really is like Z never left). He's not much of a shooter - late in the game, he heaved a ball from the baseline that was more shotput than shot - but if he continues to rebound and play defense like this, he'll have a role on this team even after Z returns.
Welcome To The Association: One of the fun parts of the Cavs' winning streak has been the evolution of the Tarence Kinsey Brigade, the end-of-the-bench crew that sees action once Coach Brown is convinced that a defeat cannot possibly be snatched from the jaws of victory. The TKB is pleased to announce its expansion to include Whole Lotta Jawad. That's right - after 22 games of sitting on the bench in a variety of suits, Cleveland native Jawad Williams made his NBA debut, getting to play in the final minute. He also scored his first NBA points, getting a basket on a nice turnaround jumper out of a post-up.
Maybe It Will Become The Jawad Williams Brigade: Speaking of Kinsey, he actually received some playing time in a non-garbage time situation, getting a couple of minutes of run in the second quarter. He grabbed a rebound, outran a couple of loose balls, and earned a floor burn or two. He's probably back to leading the Brigade once the Cavs get fully healthy, but until then, he may see some time in Actual Game Situations, and it looks like he can hold his own.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
No, the Cavs didn't play a perfect game, and I suppose I could crack on their shooting woes if I really felt like it. But eleven in a row is eleven in a row. The GBS does review the entire Cavs game experience, and that means we can crack on the other parts of the telecast, such as this:
Let ‘Em Bleed: We've hit the point in the season of complete overload from the group of regular advertisers. The same ads have been going for six weeks now, and The GBS is officially sick of them. And none more than the ad for a certain rent-to-own chain. You know the one - where the grandfatherly head of the company, flanked by his employees with the too-wide smiles, talks about how his competition is shaking, and how they say, let ‘em shake! The best part, though, is the Actual Customer Testimonial, which would probably go like this if it were just a touch more honest:
Dear Mr. Asshat,
Thank you so much for the opportunity to rent a computer from your store and for charging me an interest rate that makes the Mafia look generous by comparison. I ended up paying over $2,000 for a $500 computer! What a deal! Had I bought it outright, put it on the highest-rate credit card I could find, and then make the payment late each month, I still wouldn't have paid as much money as I did to you.
I hope that you will soon offer rent-to-own psychologists, so they can get into my brain and tell me exactly why the hell I thought this was a good deal.
I actually find myself longing for the days of "he went to Jared!"
NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT...
The Boobie Meter: Yes, Cavs' guard Daniel (Boobie) Gibson is on the shelf with a toe injury. He is projected to be on the sidelines for at least two more weeks.
You might think that his injury would also cause The Boobie Meter to go on hiatus. You would be wrong! We take our Boobies seriously here at GBS ... and more importantly, we know how to pander to the tastes of our male and alternatively-lifestyled female readers. That is especially true on a weekend, when you're less likely to be reading this from home, and thus less likely to worry about NSFW type restrictions ... so let's present these pictures of the lovely hostess of Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi. (She supposedly has a huge scar on her right arm. I've never looked at her arm, so I wouldn't know. If that sentence doesn't make sense, it will after you click on the links.)
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
Once again, it's back-to-back time. The Cavs will be in Atlanta tonight to face the Hawks.
After that, they'll have three days off, and then it's time for a road trip. A tough game in Denver next Friday night will be sandwiched by, um, not-so-tough games in Minnesota and Oklahoma City.