CLEVELAND — Larry Nance Jr. has always been a great leaper who can finish around the rim, as well as an above-average defender.
Add great passer to the list.
With 77 assists prior to a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena, Nance had three more than any other Cavs players this season, despite missing two games due to an ankle injury.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Nance’s 2.9 average also was best on the team for any player who had appeared in at least five games with Cleveland.
“Any time you have a big man that is capable of making plays as far as passing the basketball, it is certainly a weapon within the scheme of your offense,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “You have to play through a big guy at times, and when you have a big guy capable of not just passing, but making the right decision, it just gives you such an added plus.”
Nance entered the Philadelphia game having recorded a career-high seven assists three times this season: vs. Minnesota on Nov. 26, vs. Washington on Dec. 8 and vs. New York on Wednesday. He also had six Friday against Milwaukee.
The 25-year-old from Revere High School also entered Sunday averaging 8.1 points on .525 shooting and 6.9 rebounds in 24.5 minutes a game. The son of Cavs legend Larry Nance Sr. was shooting .444 on 3-pointers (12-for-27).
“Larry’s been really good as far as making the right play,” Drew said. “Any time you can play through a big guy like that, it gives you an added weapon.”
With a 2-14 overall record and 0-8 mark on the road coming in, the Cavs recorded one of their most impressive victories of the season the first time they met the 76ers, winning 121-112 at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 23.
Cleveland shot 49-for-93 from the field (.527) and made 11 of 22 3-pointers while committing just nine turnovers and outrebounding Philadelphia 42-31, including 14-4 on the offensive boards.
Rodney Hood had 25 points for the Cavs and Collin Sexton had 23 points, five rebounds and three assists. Tristan Thompson, now out with a sprained left foot, had 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“We did some really good things up in Philly,” Drew said.
The Cavs, who are 2-11 away from home, will play six of their next seven games on the road, with their lone remaining home game of 2018 set for Sunday against Chicago.
Cleveland will play at Indiana (Tuesday), Charlotte (Wednesday) and Toronto (Friday) this week. After hosting the Bulls, the Cavs conclude the year by playing at Memphis (Dec. 26), Miami (Dec. 28) and Atlanta (Dec. 29).
Philadelphia center Joel Embiid entered the game ranked fifth in the league in scoring (27.0) and third in rebounding (13.6). His 1.90 blocks per game were eighth.
“He is such a specimen down low in the post,” Drew said. “You have to try to make it as tough as possible for him.”
Embiid was coming off a 40-point, 21-rebound game Friday vs. Indiana, but the Sixers lost 113-101. It was their second straight defeat.
- Cleveland reserves entered Sunday having scored 50 or more points in a game nine times this season. The bench was averaging 43.3 points, which ranked seventh in the league.
- The Cavs entered Sunday having shot .900 or better at the line in eight games, one shy of the franchise record set last season. Cleveland’s .793 percentage ranked ninth in the league.