CLEVELAND: After a lethargic performance Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks, Cavs coach Byron Scott pulled Anderson Varejao aside to ask him if everything was OK.
Scott thought he looked tired on film and wanted to know what was going on. Varejao told him he was fine and has backed it up with typical performances now in each of his past two games.
Varejao had 10 points, 16 rebounds and was a pest all night Wednesday as the Cavs continued their dominance over the Knicks with a 91-81 victory. It was the Cavs’ 12th win in the last 13 games against the Knicks, who haven’t won in Cleveland since Nov. 29, 2006.
More importantly, it was the Cavs’ first victory on the second night of a back-to-back. They had lost their first four games in such a scenario and Scott conceded winning one is important for a young team.
“Knowing that we can do it is important,” Scott said. “I know we’ve got a bunch of these back-to-back games left, but now we have a much better taste in our mouth of understanding what it takes to win one.”
Varejao deserves a bulk of the credit. He had eight offensive rebounds, four assists, four steals, two blocks and generally just made life miserable on the Knicks’ big men.
“He’s a stat sheet stuffer,” Scott said. “That’s the one thing about Andy. He does a little bit of everything; tonight was no different. The last two games he’s back to playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
Varejao took a charge on Amar’e Stoudemire – one of eight offensive fouls in the game – and he baited Tyson Chandler into a technical foul while fighting for position off a missed free throw. Chandler caught Varejao with what appeared to be an inadvertent head butt and then an intentional forearm to the face, but Chandler said it wasn’t worthy of a technical.
“He was running up my back every play,” Chandler said. “I’m trying to get him off so he doesn’t get an offensive rebound and I get a technical. Hopefully, the league sees what really happened.”
Varejao, known for his assortment of strange flips and reverse layups around the basket, even added a rare dunk late in the first half.
Varejao said teammates were poking fun at him Wednesday night asking him if he was going to get a dunk.
“I only dunk every three years,” Varejao said. “It happened tonight.”
The game was tied at the half after the Cavs struggled offensively in the second quarter. They intensified the defense and limited the hapless Knicks to 36 points in the second half.
The Knicks were also playing on the second night of a back-to-back and looked much more fatigued, even though they arrived in Cleveland late Tuesday night before the Cavs returned home.
The Knicks were sloppy and lackadaisical with the ball, committing 23 turnovers and even getting whistled for an eight-second violation after they failed to advance the ball out of the backcourt in enough time. The Cavs weren’t even really pressuring the ball, the Knicks were just too lazy to get it across in time.
The Cavs will happily take the victory and have a chance at a winning streak now with the equally hapless New Jersey Nets coming to town on Friday.
Antawn Jamison had 15 points, Anthony Parker and Omri Casspi each had 13 points and Kyrie Irving had seven points, seven assists and only two turnovers in 30 minutes. He shot just 1-of-7 from the floor.
Casspi needed six stitches to close a cut on his chin. He fouled Landry Fields late in the third quarter, and Fields’ elbow caught Casspi’s chin.
“I got a little too close to him,” Casspi said. “I thought he went into me a little bit, too.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.