The Cavs’ six-game road trip is over. It was incredibly ugly, lacking very little good basketball on part of the Cavs and further cemented Cleveland as the worst team in the league.
If there’s an upside, it’s that Monday’s game at home is winnable considering the team is playing the Bulls, who are maybe as bad as the Cavs. But, until then, the Cavs just have to live with another brutal loss.
Negative: The Cam Payne starting experience
By rolling out a starting five of Collin Sexton, Cameron Payne, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, the Cavs have no started a league-high 19 different starting lineups this season. That is largely due to injuries, but also a sign of almost nothing has worked for this team.
Cameron Payne was the newbie in the starting five after he’s been alright on 10-day deals and played decently on Friday against the Jazz. But against the Nuggets, Payne was absolutely torched on defense by Jamal Murray, as the Cavs looked to put Collin Sexton on Torrey Craig instead of having him chase Murray around. On offense, he just didn’t do anything, really — he was just there.
Payne was never going to be a problem-solver for the Cavs. But against the Nuggets, he was such a clear negative.
Positive: Good moments from Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton
It is still unclear if the Cavs have anything in either Sexton or Osman. Both young players haven’t been helped by the injuries currently decimating the roster, but also haven’t had flashes of success beyond those moments either.
And although Saturday’s loss was another blowout, the Cavs got good moments from Sexton and Osman. In the first quarter, Sexton made good reads, and found teammates in the way a team needs a lead guard to. The best may have been here when, off a turnover, he used his speed to push the ball up the floor and get Osman a clean look at the rim.
As for Osman, he came out firing in the first quarter with seven points. Later in the game, he had two nice finishes with his left hand and in traffic — something he’s not been able to do for much of this year. And, most fun of all, he chased down Paul Millsap and blocked him on the break.
Turkish LeBron, engage.
Again, the Cavs have a lot of work to do to help both players improve. Getting Kevin Love back should help them too. But on a night where Cleveland was blown out, and on a road trip where very little went right, it’s good to see their two most important young players make noteworthy plays.
Negative: Cleveland’s defense remains a disaster
This is repeating something that doesn’t need repeating at this point. But this game showed so much of the Cavs’ struggles that, well, it’s worth repeating. Cleveland tried man defense, and it couldn’t handle Denver’s precise cutting and screening. When shooters got loose and were open on three-point line, the Cavs had no answer for it, be it because the scheme is bad, a lack of effort and/or a lack of know-how. And when the Cavs tried zone, the Nuggets just picked it apart.
In fairness, the Nuggets have a great offense and it’s not a surprise that they dominated the Cavs. But this game is a reminder of how helpless this team is on one end of the floor and how they are starting at a deficit on that end of the floor as a result.