Cavaliers trying to stay healthy
Not many teams can beat the Cleveland Cavaliers these days, but they’re hoping to avoid the one thing out of their control – the dreaded injury bug.
Power forward Antawn Jamison, who is averaging exactly 20 points and almost eight rebounds per game in March, was lost for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers due to left knee stiffness caused by a cyst.
His absence is a void Cleveland hopes isn’t a lengthy one, as they are already without the services of center Shaquille O’Neal until at least the postseason, and the Cavaliers won’t know until the next two days whether or not they will retain the services of Zyrunas Ilgauskas, and it’s not a 100-percent guarantee he will return.
LeBron James has even missed the last two games at Milwaukee (listed as rest) before he was inactive in a key 97-95 win against the San Antonio Spurs. He should be rejuvenated against the Sixers, and it remains to be seen whether or not he’s fully recovered from a twisted right ankle he suffered against Detroit.
Cleveland is sitting atop the Eastern Conference throne, and with one month remaining in the regular season, avoiding any serious injuries is a must. Even a key reserve lost for any significant amount of time could ruin the continuity of a team and possibly wreak havoc in a seven-game playoff series.
Jamison’s services are sorely needed, as although he hasn’t been successful in a brief post-season career, his presence in the paint will go a long way against the likes of Orlando, Atlanta and Boston.
The Cavaliers reached the 50-win plateau after the win against San Antonio and have won four of five games in the month of March as well as seven of their last 10 games overall.
James was inactive against the Spurs, and guard Mo Williams answered the call with 17 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Several players picked up the slack inside, including Jamison and his 17 points as well as J.J. Hickson (12 points, seven rebounds) and Anderson Varejao (11 points, nine boards).
Delonte West had 16 points and five assists, and Jawad Williams added 13 points in the win.
Cleveland is 2-0 against Philadelphia this season, but both meetings occurred in 2009. The Cavaliers won 97-91 on Nov. 21 and 108-101 on Dec. 16 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, the location of today’s contest.
The month began with wins against New York, New Jersey and Detroit before a slip up against Milwaukee, the team in second place behind the Cavaliers in the Central Division standings, albeit 15 games behind.
This weekend’s game against Boston will go a long way in determining where Cleveland truly stands against the conference’s elite, as a second-round series looms with the two in next month’s playoffs.
LeBron James is averaging 34 points, eight assists and 6.5 rebounds in the two games against Philadelphia this season. Mo Williams is averaging 15 points against the Sixers and had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the November win, while J.J. Hickson had double-figure outings in both games. There will be added pressure for Hickson, Anderson Varejao and Leon Powe with the absence of O’Neal and Jamison in the paint.
Cleveland bounced back after its loss at Milwaukee, although many will tell you it would’ve been a reverse of fortune had James not been on the bench “resting.” Jamison did have 30 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, making his absence even more significant.
David West had 27 points in the loss, but he must take better care of the basketball, as his six assists were overshadowed by his six turnovers.
The guard play of Mo Williams and company must get back to tip-top shape, and Varejao will be another key factor inside.
Varejao has been a key component on the Cavaliers’ bench all season, and the fact his numbers have peaked of late have been a blessing in disguise for the Eastern Conference leaders.
With the absence of Ilgauskas, O’Neal and now Jamison in the paint, Varejao has a pair of double-doubles in the last five games and just missed another against San Antonio. He is averaging 11.4 points and just more than five rebounds in the month of March and had 11 points and eight rebounds in the December win in Philadelphia.
His play is even more important in dealing with the likes of Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert among others.
Lou Williams had 22 points and five assists, while Thaddeus Young had 21 points and five boards in the November loss. Elton Brand had a productive game as well with 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Rodney Carney added 12 points and six boards off the bench.
In mid-December, Igoudala had 26 points and seven rebounds, Allen Iverson had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists and Young had a double-double of 16 points and 10 boards in the December defeat.
Marreese Speights made a significant contribution with 14 points, and Brand added 11 points in the loss.
It’s a seemingly improved Sixers team since the end of 2009, as they are 17-22 since their second meeting with the Cavaliers. Philadelphia won 114-101 at Toronto on March 7 before losing its last two games 107-96 at Indiana and 102-87 against Charlotte on March 10.
There is a different A.I. playing a key role for the 76ers, as former franchise player Allen Iverson is no longer a part of the team’s picture after leaving to tend with his sick daughter. Obsessive drinking and gambling seem to be a larger part of the Iverson equation.
Igoudala averaged 15 points, three rebounds and 6.5 assists the first three games of March, including an 11 point, seven assist, five-rebound performance at Atlanta. He did bounce back with 13 points against the Bobcats after being held to five points and five rebounds in a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
In a classic case of jumping the gun, it figured to be Miami or Charlotte facing Cleveland in the first round of next month’s playoffs, but the recent surge of Milwaukee jumping Chicago in the standings could push the Bulls into a first-round matchup with the Cavs.
By: Tyler Clifton
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