Game Recap: Cavaliers 108, 76ers 86
During the second week of the 2015-2016 season, the 76ers (1-28) and Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) faced each other twice. The first meeting, held in Philadelphia, was decided by seven points. The second match-up, played four days later in Ohio, was determined by six points. Back at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday afternoon, the Sixers appeared to be on track for another competitive showing versus the reigning Eastern Conference champions, leading 25-21 after the opening quarter. The Cavs had other designs for the day. They responded by outscoring the Sixers by 21 points in the second period, and surged to a 108-86 victory.
The Sixers received a solid showing from Nerlens Noel. The second-year power forward produced his seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points (5-10 fg) and 12 rebounds. He nailed down three mid-range jump-shots as well. T.J. McConnell and JaKarr Sampson both came off the bench to score 10 points. McConnell added five rebounds and three assists, while Sampson collected a season-high tying seven boards. Jahlil Okafor was limited to single-digits for the third time this year. He put up nine points (3-11 fg) and eight rebounds.
LeBron James sparked Cleveland’s difference-making 34-point second quarter, notching 11 of his game-high 23 points in the frame. His diversified final box line featured five rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one blocked shot as well. Matthew Dellavedova came within a point of his career-high, sinking 20 points behind four three-pointers. Kyrie Irving, in his first contest this season, had 12 points and four assists. Cleveland has now posted five straight wins.
Through the first 12 minutes of Sunday’s game, the Sixers were in good shape, in front 25-21 after a quarter. Tony Wroten punctuated the period, zooming to the rim for lay-ups on consecutive possessions within the final 42 seconds of the frame. Below, find a link to the highlight of the first of those two drives, on which Wroten power to the hoop by muscling past Iman Shumpert. Wroten generated six points, three assists, and three turnovers in 15 minutes.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers' loss to the veteran, All-Star laden Cleveland Cavaliers:
"I think it’s tough to teach age, it’s tough to teach weight. But sometimes, no matter what you do or what you draw, if it gets physically busted up, it’s hard."
A positive development for the Sixers as of late has been the reemergence of Isaiah Canaan’s outside shooting. The third-year pro went two for six from beyond the arc in Sunday’s setback to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and has now made 50.0 percent of his three-point tries (10-20) over his last three outings. Prior to this stretch, Canaan had converted five of 24 triple attempts during a five-game period from December 7th through December 14th.
Reflecting on his perimeter turnaround last Friday before the Sixers hosted the New York Knicks, Canaan said, “The defenses have been doing a good job of just being on my doorstep and making all my shots tough. The ones I have been getting, they’ve been going in and out for me.”
Canaan actually cited a two-point field goal from Wednesday’s game in Atlanta as the bucket that gave his confidence a boost. With just over three minutes left in the second quarter and the shot clock winding down, Canaan pulled up for a contested elbow jumper. At first, the shot bounced high off the heel of the rim, but ultimately fluttered through the net.
“I really needed that to finally see it go back it. It kind of got me going. Hopefully we can continue that as the games go on.”
The Murray State alum believes opposing teams have taken a new approach to defending him this season, after he teed off on 91 triples last year, and knocked down 37.0 percent of his attempts from three-point territory.
“They’re definitely starting to guard me a lot different, not leaving me, just staying wherever I’m at, and just trying to make sure all my looks are a lot tougher, and trying to take me away as much as possible,” Canaan noted. “I just got to do a better job of just getting open, and just picking my spots when I can’t find an open shot.”
With great anticipation, Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving made his season debut on Sunday afternoon. He was forced to the sideline for the Cavaliers’ first 24 contests, as he continued to work his way back from the left kneecap fracture he suffered in the opening game of the 2015 NBA Finals. The number one overall selection of the 2011 NBA Draft and subsequent Rookie of the Year from the campaign that followed, Irving received a loud roar from the sell-out Quicken Loans Arena crowd of 20,562 when he first touched the ball in the opening seconds of the first quarter.
Even without the three-time All-Star, the Cavs were still able to set the pace in and rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. LeBron James, another Rookie of the Year and All-Star, talked to local reporters about the mindset Cleveland adopted over the first seven weeks of the season.
“We’ve just been playing ball,” said James. “Our motto is next man up. There’s no excuses around here. Whoever’s in the line-up, guys are ready to go. We want to be full. But that’s not our mindset. When it happens, we still have to go out to play the game. We don’t worry about it too much.”
While it was Irving’s appearance that created the biggest buzz going into Sunday afternoon, Matthew Dellavedova proved to be the point guard who left a lasting mark on the game. After the Sixers had sliced a 29-point deficit to 19 in the third quarter, the Australian import ripped off eight consecutive points to swing momentum back to Cleveland’s side.
On Tuesday, the Sixers make their final appearance of the 2015 calendar year at The Center, welcoming the Memphis Grizzlies. Brett Brown’s team is currently in the midst of an intensive segment of the schedule during which it plays on the road eight times in 10 games. The group recently returned from a three-game, five-day trek, and will embark on a six-game, 10-day trip Wednesday in Milwaukee. From there, they visit five Western Conference foes in a row.
When asked if having the rare chance to play in South Philadelphia makes a difference, Isaiah Canaan said, “Yeah. We’ve been on the road, and we getting ready for another long road trip. So any home game is good for us, and just try to keep our fans engaged, and tell them to just be patient with us, and everything else will just be fine.”
When the Sixers arrive back in the Delaware Valley following their looming journey West, they’ll have played 23 of their 36 games away from home.
The Sixers meet the Memphis Grizzlies (15-14) for the second and final time this season on Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST at The Center. They first played on November 29th, with the Grizzlies winning the contest, 92-84. Despite the Sixers holding a four-point edge with 6:28 remaining in regulation, Memphis strung together a decisive 13-0 run to secure the victory. The game was part of a stretch during which the Grizz won eight times in 10 outings. Since then, Memphis, has lost six of 10. Recently, head coach Dave Joerger decided to break up his top frontcourt tandem of All-Stars Marc Gasol (16.2 pts, 7.9 reb) and Zach Randolph (12.9 pts, 8.3 reb), opting to try and speed up his starting line-up by bringing Randolph off the bench the last five games. Prior to Joerger making this change, Randolph had served a reserve only 22 times over the first six seasons of his stint with Memphis. Veteran Matt Barnes has replaced Randolph in the starting line-up.