Hickson’s Big Game Keeps Promise Alive

By: T.J. Zuppe

Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward J.J. Hickson can be very frustrating to watch. There is no question his talent is special. There is no doubt he has the tools to dominate most nights.

But the most glaring question for Hickson seems to always find a way into conversation: When will the light bulb come on full-time for the third-year power forward?

Cavs Forward J.J. Hickson - Getty Images

In Friday nights victory over the Clippers, one that snapped an NBA record 26-game skid, the athletic big proved why he has such promise.

In a performance that was one of the most complete for Cleveland this season, Hickson was a key cog in helping the team do something they had not done since December 18th – win a game. And boy did the Cavs need it.

“It wasn’t a matter of playing against Blake (Griffin),” Hickson said. “I was motivated to get out there and just try to get the win and help my team get a W. We could have been playing some high school players, I would have still been motivated to go out there and compete and get a win.”

Motivated, he was but as much as he said he did not have any extra in the tank to play against the All-Star rookie of the Clippers, Griffin certainly seemed to bring the best out of Hickson. That included a stat line of 27 points and 14 rebounds, in what arguably could have been his best game sporting the colors wine and gold.

“I just think I played well on both ends and I think it shows up,” Hickson said. “I just think I played solid on defense and when guys like Mo (Williams) and Ramon Sessions penetrated, I made myself available and got on the offensive glass.”

Hickson’s play over the last seven games has shown a bit more consistency, averaging 19.6 points per contest in that stretch. But more surprising than the offensive game, was how physical he played the imposing Griffin on defense, which did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“(Hickson) was great defensively,” Guard Mo Williams said, following his return from injury. “He was so good defensively we called off the double team. We said you got him, we’re not helping, we’re not doing anything, and he did a great job.

“It benefits everybody. We get to stay home. We don’t get backdoored and things like that. He was terrific.”

On top of that defense, everyone will remember Hickson’s performance for two very key blocks. One on Griffin in regulation, as he went up for another of his monstrous throwdowns. Hickson denied him and planted him on his backside, a play that seemed to energize the crowd, but more importantly, the team.

“I just wanted to be solid on defense,” Hickson said. “I used my athleticism… It was just a good play overall… It was nothing personal. I just think we’re both good athletic players and I just won that battle.”

Then at the end of regulation, Hickson denied a shot at the basket that ultimately sent the two teams to overtime.

“I just think it was a good block by me,” Hickson added. “I’m glad the referee didn’t call goal-tending because I think it was a great block. I got the ball at its highest point.”

Both blocks meant the world to the victory, for very different reasons. He finished with four rejections overall in the contest.

Which brings us back to the most important question: Is Hickson’s play of late something we can expect moving forward? Has coach Byron Scott’s tough love earlier this season began to sink into his psyche on the court? Or is this just another reasons to cause more frustration towards his game?

The rest of this season will be about finding that out about him and several other Cavaliers, as the team picks up the pieces, looking towards next season in the second half.

The mantra is always “one game at a time,” and with that being the case, the focus is now on the Washington Wizards on Sunday.


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