76ers Fall To Cavs 107-100 as LeBron James Reaches Milestone
The first quarter gave Sixers fans hope of what the future might hold. The rest of the game reminded them of the reality that the present is.
The Sixers led the Cleveland Cavaliers 32-18 after one quarter of play, recording 8 assists on 12 made baskets. Four Sixers players scored at least 5 points in the frame, led by Nerlens Noel‘s 10.
Then the wheels fell off.
The Cavaliers responded by outscoring the Sixers 89-68 over the final three quarters en route to a 107-100 victory. In truth, the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, as the Sixers used a late run after the Cavs pulled most of their starters to pull the game closer. The Cavaliers led by as many as 21 points late in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers’ turnaround started at the end of the first half, when they used a 10-2 run to end the second quarter and pull to within 5 at intermission, 54-49. A 15-2 run to start the second half gave the Cavs a lead they’d never relinquish.
“We got jumped by a great team in the third period,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the game. “I think it’s a great learning lesson for young players to understand that the third quarter, people come out of locker rooms and you go one way or the other.
“You see what it can be with pace and post [up] and pass,” Brown said, referring to the strong first half play. “We didn’t do that in the third period. We stood, and we didn’t run, and we didn’t share the ball.”
“When we stand there and we’re stagnant, we’re easy to guard,” rookie point guard T.J. McConnell said after the game. “When we’re moving, passing, and screening I think we’re pretty hard to guard.”
Despite the loss, Brown was able to take away some positives from the game.
“I saw a different team than we saw play against Utah. I think that the first half we did a very good job of balancing post and pace,” Brown said “I thought there were a lot of good things that came out of tonight.”
The loss drops the Sixers to 0-3 to start the season. The Cavaliers improved to 3-1.
The game saw Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James score 22 points in the win, which gave him 25,001 for his career. At 30 years and 307 days of age, James became the youngest player to ever score 25,000 points in an NBA career.
The Sixers were led offensively by Jahlil Okafor, who scored 24 points on 11-21 shooting from the field. Okafor once again showcased an incredibly diverse set of offensive moves, using his quickness to beat Mozgov off the dribble and a power game to bully Tristan Thompson inside.
“I feel like you second guess a little bit when you’re coming off Stauskas and you’re coming off Covington,” Brown said when asked about Okafor receiving fewer double teams than he had in previous games. “I thought we did a pretty good job of spacing the floor and trying to get [Okafor] the ball.”
Nerlens Noel played another nice all-around game, finishing with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal. The Sixers once again got another solid contribution from second year guard Nik Stauskas, who scored 15 points on 4-10 shooting, including 3-9 from three point range. Stauskas has scored in double figures in each of his two games with the team after doing so in just 9 of his 73 games in Sacramento.
The Sixers were led by T.J. McConnell off the bench. McConnell finished the night with 6 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 0 turnovers.
“He’s a spark. He plays with great heart. He plays with great pace,” Brown said about McConnell after the game. “We have to run with him. He forces the game’s tempo on everybody else.”
For McConnell, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, the playing time comes as a surprise.
“I obviously didn’t expect it, and I’m sure everyone in the arena didn’t expect me to get as many minutes as I am,” McConnell said after the game. “My goal in there is just get the ball moving.”
Odds and Ends
* Nik Stauskas played really well. Besides making shots from the perimeter he showed his ball handling and underrated athleticism, showing some ability to turn the corner off the pick and roll and get into the paint.
* T.J. McConnell finished the game with 12 assists to 0 turnovers. The 12 assists was easily a career-high for McConnell (his previous high was 4).
* Richaun Holmes continues to do good things in his limited playing time. He finished with just 4 points, 1 rebound, and 1 block in 11 minutes of play, but he regularly does the little things: the box out, the defensive rotation, and the hard screen to free up a ball handler.
* Robert Covington struggled mightily with his shot, connecting on just one of his nine field goal attempts in his first game back since being injured in the preseason finale against the Celtics. Still, head coach Brett Brown talked after the game about how his presence opens things up for the rest of the players.
* When the Sixers kept trying to crawl back into the game late in the third quarter, Hollis Thompson (1-4 from three point range) missed a number of wide open looks that could have been big for momentum.
* 22 assists is a season-high for the Sixers in the short season, and 13 turnovers is also their lowest output of the season.
* Okafor has scored at least 20 points in two of three games this season. In 76ers history only Jerry Stackhouse, Allen Iverson, Speedy Claxton, and Michael Carter-Williams also accomplished that feat in the first three games of their NBA career.