CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers have a penchant for looking like they do not want to be on the floor some nights. On Saturday night, it looked the same as they fell behind 13-3 to the Philadelphia 76ers, but they had an excuse.
The second night of a back-to-back is tough enough on an aging team, but not enough to make an excuse. A delayed flight and 4:30 AM arrival time might be a little closer to excusable.
It was an ominous beginning that felt so from before the game when Kevin Love was announced to be out with hip soreness. Even in-game announcer Ahmaad Crump’s microphone did not work at the front end of his player introductions.
Even the fans were out of it by the time the Cavaliers trailed by 10 in the early goings. After just the first timeout, Quicken Loans Arena’s in-game entertainment team used up a Happy Gilmore pump-up video normally saved for the 4th quarter.
Slowly but surely, everything began to come to life for a team that looked like it did not have any, and it started like it has so many times with the bench. The second unit finished off a 31-8 Cavalier run to put the Wine and Gold in the driver’s seat before wearing down the young Sixers in the 4th.
As it turned out, the youthful Philly roster, hell-bent on pacing the veteran Cavs to death, ran out of gas before their road weary foes.
“Your whole day is kind of just screwed up,” LeBron James said, fresh off of his 58th career triple-double.
“Your whole routine and your regiment is kind of screwed up. For us to come out here and be professionals, still got to be professionals, nobody’s going to feel sorry for you; for us to show up and have our All-Star power forward out, have so many guys out, everyone just gave what they had and we were very resilient. Had a lot of resolve tonight once again to get that win.”
James was especially sluggish early, short on his shots, not getting back on defense and unable to find his teammates with his classic grace. He left that all in the rearview by the end, scoring or assisting on his team’s last 22 points in the 4th quarter.
Against one of the fastest-paced teams in the league, it was James’ gang who dialed up the energy late. Head coach Tyronn Lue trotted out a positionless lineup of James, Wade, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green for the last 5 ½ minutes, giving LeBron a full arsenal of options on the break.
“It’s a lot of times when teams are tired, and LeBron gets a rebound, that’s the first pass to transition,” Lue said. “So, if we’re playing fast and have all the shooters on the floor, he can get downhill, get into the paint and see guys like Kyle Korver that result in a 3-point shot in front of our bench by just playing fast, getting it out quick. Playing fast with the pace, it opens up for our shooters.”
“This could have been a tough one when you go thirteen games, then you lose two in a row,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “We could have had an excuse, we could have made an excuse, but no one wants to hear that in this league. Definitely not in this locker room where the goal is to become a champion one day.
“Wasn’t a lot of words being said, guys talk a lot. Everyone was focused on just trying to muster up whatever they had to give it to this game, and I thought we did that.”