Photo: Scott Shaw/The Plain Dealer
The Cavaliers got some pretty tough news today with Shaq's 8 week absence ahead of them, but they didn't waste any time in getting back to work. Coach Mike Brown rolled out a new-look starting lineup, and what ensued was a complete destruction of the lowly Knicks, who still consider "defense" a foreign word. D'Antoni's dummy D led to a season-high margin of victory (31), largest lead this season (49), most points in regulation (124), a tie for most points in a half this year (74, also against the Knicks), and a rim-scorching 57% shooting. The wine and gold have now won 4 in a row as they look to keep piling up as many wins as possible in this advantageous month of March.
The bitter news: Word came from Baltimore today that the surgery on Shaquille O'Neal's thumb will likely keep him out for 8 weeks. That would keep the man in the middle out for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs hope to re-sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas in three weeks, but until then it's going to be a feeling out process with lots of small lineups. Luckily for the Cavs, the March schedule is favorable, and they have a cushion in the Eastern Conference. The most important thing is that the Cavaliers likely would not face the Orlando Magic until the Eastern Conference Finals as it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the Celtics or Hawks will jump up and knock the Cavaliers from one of the top two spots. Let's hope the time off for Shaq is beneficial, and he will be well rested for what could be up to seven of the most important games in Cleveland sports history.
Switching up the lineup: Shortly before gametime, it was revealed that J.J. Hickson, not Anderson Varejao, would be the team's starting center tonight. Brown thinks that he may go with this look for the time being, and it is most likely because he values Varejao's bench presence so much. It also could help keep Varejao in games longer, considering he fouled out in Toronto Friday night. Hickson, who started his first NBA game at power forward against the Knicks in New York earlier this year, thrived with the promotion, running around and making plays on the court left and right. J.J. posted 17 points and 9 rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting in only 23 minutes. He also had 2 blocks, including a very impressive block on David Lee.