As Wednesday night’s victory against the Boston Celtics came to a close, Fred McLeod said, “Sometimes it’s not the names on the back of the jerseys but rather the written across the chest.” And he was right. The Cleveland Cavaliers no longer have the best player on their side this season. But what they do have is a team of players that, collectively, can be great.
Just a hint of that potential greatness shined through against the Celtics. JJ Hickson was absolutely phenomenal. He went toe-to-toe with Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest power forwards in the game, and came out victorious. His 10 first quarter points kept the Cavs within striking distance as the rest of the bunch struggled through first game woes.
With Hickson leading the way, five other members of the Wine & Gold warriors notched double-digits in the scoring column. Ramon Sessions took over in the second quarter, coming up with clutch basket after clutch basket, finishing the night with a solid 14 point performance. He did an excellent job running the show for Byron Scott’s Princeton-style run-and-gun offense.
Then, after an 0 for 7 start to the season, Daniel Gibson canned 4 of his 7 attempts in the second half and finished the night with 16 points, taking the reins in the final 24 minutes. Gibson sealed the deal with two clutch free throws in the final seconds to put the game out of reach.
As an excellent complement to the Cavalier back court, Cleveland’s front court played an incredible brand of basketball. Anderson Varejao was the same, energetic wild thing that he has been throughout his entire career. He knocked down 3 of 4 shot attempts in a steady eight point, 10 rebound performance. Jamario Moon added 10 points and five boards to the mix while holding Paul Pierce to a 5 for 12 shooting performance. Most notably, J-Moon locked down on the Celtics star in the closing minute and made Pierce work for every shot.
Lastly, in his fifteen minutes of work, Ryan Hollins played an impressive game on both ends of the floor. Cleveland’s lone seven-footer connected on 4 of 6 attempts, going for 10 points and 4 rebounds. Hollins’s contributions extended far beyond the stat sheet as he provided Coach Scott with a defensive presence under the rim while his starting big men rested.
Spitting in the face of all the doubters, Cleveland proved that they can be a good team. They can put together a solid four quarters. But the trick is, can they build a consistency that will be there on a day-by-day basis?
That remains to be seen. Let’s continue to compete together on Friday night against the Toronto Raptors.