The Cavs are a team struggling through injuries and a team missing top-end talent. They have helpful pieces, but without anything approaching a star, the margin for error is small. In Charlotte, they ultimately didn’t have the horses. You could point to good moments for quite a few players representing Cleveland in this game, but unfortunately you wouldn’t be able to point to sustained good team play after the first 18 or so minutes of the game.
Ultimately, a solid game from Larry Nance, Jr., a decent start from Rodney Hood, and nice bench performance from Jaron Blossomgame wasn’t enough.
The Charlotte Hornets, 110. Your Cleveland Cavaliers, 99.
Let’s start with the Hornets, who were sleepwalking for the first part of this basketball game. They were held to just 41 first half points, and it took a late rally to get to that number, as the Cavs built a 13-point lead at one point. There were possessions where the Hornets seemed surprised at even token resistance from the Cavs defense and threw the ball into careless turnovers. This is somewhat fair - the Cavs came into the game with the league’s worst defense, and the team’s second half performance signaled a serious regression to the mean. Kemba Walker finished with 30 points, and Jeremy Lamb chipped in 18 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in 42(!) minutes.
To the Cavs’ credit, the Hornets attempted just 25 three-pointers. Unfortunately, they made 40 percent of them, and in the second half in particular they were simply getting easy looks around the basket.
The game grew frustrating for Cleveland, and Larry Drew was ejected in the fourth quarter. There was a poor missed call that should have sent Collin Sexton to the free throw line, but Drew was probably more upset with his team as a whole. Either way, it’s a nice message for Drew to send to Sexton and the team as a whole that he’ll have their back.
Sexton himself was frustrated with the officiating, but again, part of it was frustration with how the game was going, both for his team and for himself. 11 points on 15 shots, three assists, two turnovers, and four fouls in 27 minutes isn’t ideal. He’s learning; for now it’s fine.
David Nwaba was ineffective again, but Nance Jr. was a positive presence. You could argue his foul trouble in the second quarter was the beginning of the end for the Cavs in this game, and he finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. He looks like a completely different player than he did earlier in the season. Blossomgame had 15 points on eight shots, and made three of four of his attempts from three point range. He’ll continue to get opportunities.
Without Matthew Dellavedova, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, this team will struggle to sustain good play. The Hornets will take the win. The Cavs will take the loss.