Without Irving, Varajao Cavaliers dominated by 76ers 99-84
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
The Cleveland Cavaliers knew they were in for a tough matchup when the Philadelphia 76ers came to town Saturday night. After a disappointing loss the previous night against Milwaukee, Cleveland was looking to rebound against a 76ers team that currently owns the third best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers had other ideas.
Philadelphia jumped on the Cavs early and cruised out of Cleveland with a 99-84 thrashing in Quicken Loans Arena.
"I thought obviously the energy wasn't there from the start to the finish of the game," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "(I) kind of expected that just watching guys in the locker room when Andy (Varejao) was there."
Aside welcoming in a hot Sixers (19-9) team, Cleveland (10-16) was without talented rookie point guard Kyrie Irving and All-Star snub Anderson Varejao. Without the skills of Irving and the energy Varejao brings to the floor, the Cavs struggled mightily.
Trailing 21-19 after the first quarter, it appeared Cleveland was going to compete with a Sixers team that entered the contest with eight players averaging at least 9.0 points per game. Instead, Philadelphia started the second quarter on a 9-0 run and never looked back. The Sixers eventually widened their lead to 21 in the second period and Cleveland never came within single digits the rest of the game.
"I thought effort wise in the second quarter they amped it up a little bit," Scott said. "They got every long rebound, every loose ball, they started getting up and down the floor, defensively they started putting a little bit more pressure (and) being a little bit more aggressive, and I thought we just took steps back."
An MRI revealed that Varejao has a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist, which was suffered against Milwaukee. His timeline for a return to action will be established next week after further testing and examination is conducted at the Cleveland Clinic. There is a chance, however, Varejao could be sidelined for several weeks. This is a crushing blow to a Cleveland team that had outside aspirations of competing for a playoff spot.
Irving missed his third-straight game as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered in Miami on Tuesday. Without Varejao and Irving, the atmosphere in The Q had a similar feel to the arena a season ago. During Cleveland's historic losing skid last year, Varejao missed significant time with a torn ankle tendon while Irving was sidelined with a sprained toe at Duke University.
Both Varejao and Irving, arguably the Cavs two best players, were in consideration for this year's Eastern Conference All-Star team and will be sorely missed.
"It's like I told the guys in there, I understand," Scott said. "But it doesn't take away from the fact that we still didn't compete at a high level like I think we're capable of doing."
Cavs guard Ramon Sessions started his third-consecutive game at point guard and finished with 19 points and eight assists. Semih Erden started in place of Varejao. He played just 14 minutes and did not score with three rebounds.
Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison scored a team-high 20 points with eight rebounds and Alonzo Gee added 17 points and six rebounds.
Daniel Gibson started once again in place of Anthony Parker who continues to rehabilitate a strained lower back. He finished with seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Sixers continued to produce a balanced scoring attack. Guard Jrue Holiday led the team with 20 points, four rebounds and five assists. Lou Williams scored 19 points with five assists while Thaddeus Young chipped in 16 points and six rebounds. Four other Sixers scored at least eight points.
"They just had a little more intensity than we did throughout the whole game," Sessions said. "A good team like Philly you can't really lack any possessions and there were a few of those where we had a couple mistakes here and there (and) it cost us the game early."
Trailing by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter, Cleveland emptied its bench, which brought playing time for 10-day contract signee Ben Uzoh from the D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Uzoh was signed to give the Cavaliers depth at point guard and finished with two points in five minutes against the Sixers.
The Cavs continue their longest home stand in franchise history Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
"It's just like I told (the) guys," Scott said. "This is the NBA and guys are going to get hurt and it provides opportunities for other guys and you just have to be ready to play and hopefully we'll get over this little hangover tonight and be ready to play Wednesday.".
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