CLEVELAND — If the Cavaliers have to play without Kyrie Irving for a month, well, this is probably the way to go.
Defend, hustle your buns off, and get some scoring from unlikely sources. And not just scoring. This was a once-in-a-lifetime show from Jeremy Pargo, who started at point guard in Irving’s place.
Pargo scored 28 points. He made 11-of-19 shots. He buried some three-pointers from south of the equator.
In the end, the Cavs scored a 92-83 victory over visiting Philadelphia, snapping a six-game losing streak and looking extremely competent in doing so.
On this Thanksgiving Eve, this much was clear: The Cavs ain’t no jive turkeys.
Sure, their record is 3-8. Sure, they won’t have Irving (broken finger) for a while. Sure, Daniel Gibson (elbow soreness) was out, too. But oftentimes in the NBA, that’s all a team needs for the bench guys to have career nights.
Pargo had one. So did C.J. Miles. At least, it was a career night for Miles (13 points, 5-for-9 shooting) as a member of the Cavs.
But as good as Pargo and Miles were, this was a team effort in the truest sense. Without Irving, the Cavs will require more of them.
Anderson Varejao grabbed 19 rebounds and scored 10 points. Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 boards. Alonzo Gee compiled a very steady 14 points, and rookie Dion Waiters seemingly got the Cavs out of a jam every time the Sixers (7-5) came close.
Waiters will get more of an opportunity to show why he was the No. 4 overall pick without Irving. The Cavs are counting on Waiters to do just that, actually.
While he struggled shooting (7-for-22), he finished with 16 points, including a 5-0 run when the Sixers cut the lead to two in the second half. Cavs coach Byron Scott only wishes his prized rookie would go to the basket a little more.
“When he does, he can find people,” Scott said, pointing to Waiters’ team-high six assists.
Still, there were few complaints from the Cavs coach on this night. After all, no one figured on Pargo’s performance.
“I don’t think anybody expected JP to come in and play the way he did,” Scott said. “I think you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He works his butt off every day at practice. We talk about opportunities. He took advantage of it.”
Of course, for all the talk of heroics on offense, the Cavs deserve credit for their defense — which is pretty much what it takes when your top scorer is out. The Sixers shot just 17 percent (3-for-18) in the first quarter and 36 percent for the game.
“When we play defense like that for 48 minutes, we give ourselves a chance,” Varejao said.
And when guys like Pargo, Miles and others come alive like they rarely have before — or in the case of Pargo, like he never has before — the Cavs can survive without Irving. Not forever, but for a few minutes.