On Big Z's night, Cavalier depth drives PHX deep freeze: Cavaliers 107, Suns 90
Photo: Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com
It is the percentage of games that Zydrunas Ilgauskas has played since his fifth foot operation in the 2001-2002 season, which was preceded by a start to his career where he saw action in only 26 percent of the team's games. Since those sometimes overcast days for Ilgauskas, he's made two All-Star teams, four playoff appearances, and one NBA Finals trip. He's also becoming the franchise's all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots. Tonight, the 7'3" center added two more accomplishments in an all-too-improbable career resurrection. This was Z's night, but mixed in with that was one of the Cavaliers' best performances all season against a thus-far dynamic Phoenix Suns team. The Cavaliers had seven score in double figures and all ten rotation players contribute in a big way in their 17-point victory that was never in doubt after the first quarter.
Take a bow, Big Fella: With 3:50 to go in the first quarter, Mike Brown did the right thing. He sent Zydrunas Ilgauskas into the game and let him accomplish what should have been done four nights ago against Dallas. Ilgauskas moved past general manager Danny Ferry for sole possession of the all-time Cavalier games played mark with his 724th appearance in wine and gold (or, on this night, blue and orange). The Q gave him a standing ovation, and it continued until Z hit his first bucket and for each one thereafter. Z didn't disappoint either; in fact, he led the team with his 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and with his 11th and 12th points passed Mr. Cavalier Austin Carr for 3rd on the all-time Cavalier scoring list. Big Z stands just 15-20 games away from passing the man he was brought in to replace for second in scoring, Brad Daugherty. For as concerned as Brown was with Z matching up against Dallas, the man in the middle did just fine against an even tougher matchup in Phoenix and covering Amar'e Stoudemire or Channing Frye. In fact, the blue and orange went on a 21-4 run when Z checked in initially, and the Cavaliers were +9 for the 20 minutes he played. Sure, he's old, he's slow, he can't jump, and he's in the twilight of his career. But, he's also experienced, skilled, as motivated as ever, a great teammate, a Cavalier icon, and he's willing to do what it takes to help this team win. I challenge you to a) find a better backup center in the NBA and b) find a man more deserving of a ring. Here's hoping you get what you deserve, big guy. As for tonight, in a microcosm of your Cavalier career, it was a steady, consistent job well done.
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