Sorry for the shoddy blog work tonight. Blame the Wells Fargo Center's lousy wireless connections. On to the game...
The Cavs will win a handful of games this season simply because they know how to win. This was one of those nights.
"This team is used to winning," one person associated with the Cavs told me recently. "Too many people around the country are discounting that. But this team knows how to win games."
And Philadelphia doesn't.
The Cavs escaped tonight because they weren't playing a very good team, but this inconsistent defensive effort has to be driving Byron Scott crazy.
The Cavs just quit playing defense for long stretches of their last four games. They allowed 31 points in the third quarter to Toronto, 31 in the third quarter to Sacramento, 40 in the first to Atlanta and now 33, 31 and 32 points in the final three quarters tonight.
The second quarter was particularly frustrating, since the Cavs held a commanding 19-point lead and seemed to be in total control with about eight minutes left in the half.
"Throughout my career, every time I've coached a team that got off to a fast start, it scares me to death," Scott said. "All of a sudden, you start to relax. You get a little lackadaisical at times and that team is going to keep playing. Nobody likes being embarrassed."
Instead, the Cavs nearly were the ones embarrassed. Had it been a better opponent playing at home, or if the Sixers had Andre Iguodala (Achilles) for the second half, it may have been a much different outcome. As it is, the Cavs are thrilled to end their three-game losing streak heading to Washington on Saturday.
It can't be overstated that these are the games the Cavs must win if they are going to be a playoff team this season. They are in the midst of a seven-game stretch against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season (although the New Orleans Hornets are included in that and are now 6-0 after beating the Heat on Friday).
These games against Philly, Washington and New Jersey are important, even if the season is so young. Scott said tonight that with 77 games left, there's no such thing as a must-win game and he's right. But if the Cavs had to walk out of here with a loss after leading by 19, it would have been fairly damaging to the confidence of a team still searching for its identity.
NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
* The best part about Anderson Varejao's 10-for-10 shooting night, to me, was his powerful reverse dunk to put the Cavs up 3 late in the fourth quarter. It's maddening to watch Varejao shoot around the basket sometimes. He never simply faces the basket and shoots. It's always a reverse or behind the back or a hook shot or something more difficult. A guy his size ought to just see the hoop and slam it.
* It was interesting to note that Mo Williams sat the first half of the fourth quarter. It could've been simply to rest him and not overtax his body, since he is still working his way back and he did play nine minutes in the third quarter and 30 for the game. But he is still freelancing a little bit in Scott's offense and hoisting shots that aren't Princeton-worthy. That's part of Mo's game and who he is. He'll make some, he'll miss some. It will be interesting to watch how Scott responds to that.
* Joey Graham was a surprise candidate for early minutes and he played well. He scored 10 points off the bench and can play a little better defense than Jawad Williams can. At least that's the way it looks in his very limited minutes thus far.
* The Cavs shot 38 of 48 from the free-throw line. Given how dreadful this team was shooting free throws, that's huge.