Cavaliers impress with efficient scoring and tough defense in blowout win vs 76ers


Courtesy of NBA

Shooting guards Caris LeVert (left) and Donovan Mitchell (right) go in for a high-five after leading the Cavs to victory against the 76ers.

Gaurav Hardikar, Staff Writer

On Nov. 30, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Philadelphia 76ers in a high-profile Eastern Conference showdown. Nearly 20,000 fans filled the seats at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to watch the young Cavs squad, led by point guard Darius Garland and recently acquired superstar shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. Though the 76ers were without All-Star James Harden, Cleveland’s defense still had their hands full, facing formidable big man Joel Embiid without their own All-Star center, Jarrett Allen.

Though the Sixers got off to a 9-2 run, the Cavaliers rallied with several unanswered shots to go up to 16-9. Early victims of a 14-point swing, Philadelphia tried to right the ship, but the Cavs made their opponents earn every point, sending Embiid to the free throw line and closely guarding the perimeter. Cleveland briefly trailed by a point before shooting guard Caris LeVert drained a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 21-19 lead. With just over a minute remaining in the first quarter, the 76ers would not see a lead for the remainder of the game.

The Cavaliers took the second quarter by storm, outscoring the visitors 44-27 with brilliant performances on all fronts. Mitchell poured on 9 points and 3 assists, accounting for over a third of Cleveland’s points in the second. Up by 21 at the half, the Cavs relaxed a bit and still outscored the 76ers 21-18 in the third quarter. Garland stole the show this time, with a 10-point effort that included a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of assists from Mitchell.

Despite the large lead entering the fourth quarter, the Cavs refused to take their foot off the gas, adding insult to injury with each bucket until the final whistle mercifully blew and sealed the 113-85 home victory for Cleveland. Garland (21 points, 9 assists) and Mitchell (18 points, 6 assists) performed admirably, but it was LeVert who lit up the stat sheet. The 28-year-old came off the bench to record 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

While the scoring efforts were distributed, with half of the Cavaliers scoring in the double digits, it was the defense that continued to shine brightly. The big men filled in nicely for Allen, holding Embiid to just 19 points—considerably less than his season average. The perimeter defense frustrated Philadelphia, as they shot a pitiful 23.1% on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Cavs offense scored nine more 3-pointers with an impressive 51.7%.

The Cavaliers followed up the late November victory with a home win over the Orlando Magic, a road loss to the New York Knicks and a win in Cleveland over the Los Angeles Lakers. As of Dec. 5, the Cavs sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. Though the team ranks 18th in points per game, efficiency on offense has been the key, as their field goal percentage and 3-point percentage are 10th and 8th in the league, respectively. 

On defense, the team has the No. 1 defensive rating, pulling their low-scoring offense up for a net rating that ranks No. 5 in the league. The team’s league-best net bench rating is also a testament to its depth, as highlighted by LeVert’s big performance against the 76ers.

It is easy to imagine Cleveland making a deep playoff run given their successful start. Yet with the menacing MVP favorites Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks leading the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs have a ways to go on offense if Cleveland are to win a championship again.

The 16-9 Cleveland Cavaliers resume their campaign on Dec. 9 at home against the Sacramento Kings.