CLEVELAND: After most of the 19-point advantage was erased and the Cavaliers were clinging to a two-point lead, the Cavs did what they know. They gave the ball to their point guard and got out of his way.
The fact it was Jeremy Pargo and not Kyrie Irving was irrelevant, at least on this night. Pargo dribbled into the lane, got to the basket and laid it in, just like Irving would do. Pargo scored an astonishing 28 points, just like Irving would do, and carried the Cavaliers to a 92-83 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, ending a six-game losing skid.
Pargo was Cavaliers coach Byron Scott’s choice to replace Irving in the starting lineup. The Cavs learned this week they would be without their star for four weeks, but no one expected anything like this.
“I saw it all coming,” Scott said with a straight face before breaking out in laughter. “I don’t think anyone expected J.P. to come in and play the way he did. But you have to give him credit. He works his butt off in practice. We talk about guys getting opportunities. He took advantage of it.”
Pargo was inactive for four of the first 10 games. He didn’t get off the bench until the eighth game, but recently used his defense to surpass Donald Sloan as the primary backup to Irving.
That’s why Scott turned to him on Wednesday, giving Pargo just his sixth career start.
Pargo set career highs in points (28) and rebounds (five), added four assists and held the Sixers’ Jrue Holiday to 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He looked eerily similar to Irving, at least at times, although no one is expecting him to replace the 23 points Irving provided every night.
“Those are some big shoes to fill,” Pargo said. “Don’t do that to me just yet.”
The Cavs acquired Pargo from the Memphis Grizzlies during the summer in what amounted to a salary dump. Pargo is guaranteed $1 million this season and the Grizzlies didn’t want to pay it, so they traded him to the Cavs for D.J. Kennedy’s nonguaranteed contract and quickly cut Kennedy, who is back in the Development League.
Pargo admitted Wednesday he didn’t have a very good training camp and preseason, which is why he was inactive to start the season. He went from barely playing at all to logging 39 minutes, something that just might continue.
Pargo, Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee each played 39 minutes on Wednesday and Scott shortened his bench to just Tyler Zeller, C.J. Miles and Omri Casspi. Daniel Gibson was a late scratch for the second consecutive game with a sore right elbow, forcing Scott to play his starters heavy minutes.
With a day off today, followed by back-to-back games this weekend, Scott was going to play his starters as long as he needed to pull out a win. The victory was the Cavs’ first since Nov. 5 at the Los Angeles Clippers.
It wasn’t easy.
The Cavs took the lead one minute into the game and held it the rest of the way, building the advantage to as many as 19 thanks to the Sixers’ miserable 4-of-26 shooting start to the night. Scott has been demanding better defense and he finally has gotten it the past two games, although the Sixers are one of the worst offensive teams in the league and were playing the second of back-to-back games.
The Sixers cut the deficit to two points in the third quarter, but the Cavs quickly pushed it back out to 15. The Sixers cut the lead to 79-77 with 3:29 left, but Pargo made the driving layup and C.J. Miles later added a huge 3-pointer with 2:43 left to put the Cavs ahead 86-77.
Miles had 13 points in his best night with the Cavs, Waiters had 16 points and Gee had 14 points.
Anderson Varejao had 19 rebounds and Tristan Thompson had 11, but the two had to be separated coming off the court for a timeout late in the first half.
The two were hollering at each other as they walked off the floor, then finally had to be separated by Samardo Samuels and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley.
Order was quickly restored in the huddle and there were no more incidents.
“We were just talking about the rebounds,” Thompson said. “We just have to communicate better on the rebounds because we’re both active. That’s my guy. We’re good.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.