The calendar says it’s still January, which means we’ve got a lot of basketball left to play this year. The record of your Cleveland Cavaliers screams tanking, but the players have to keep showing up, and have to keep working. They haven’t packed things up yet, and it showed in an impressive victory Tuesday night over the Washington Wizards. Cedi Osman carried the team at times, and Jordan Clarkson couldn’t seem to miss. Larry Nance, Jr. played with energy and, well, the Washington Wizards did not. A valiant late effort from Jordan McRae and Washington’s bench made things close, but the Cavs should mostly feel pretty good about this.
This was, generally speaking, a blowout. Things got tight late due to missed free throws, turnovers, and a defense that reverted to their season-long form. Cedi Osman came up with a steal on the game’s final possession, and a total collapse was avoided.
Your Cleveland Cavaliers, 116. The Washington Wizards, 113.
It was announced during the game that Osman made the Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend. He’ll play on the World team where Dirk Nowitzki will be his coach. It’s a nice accolade, and at least in this game it was clear he deserved it. He finished with 26 points on 16 shots, handing out seven assists to just three turnovers while adding three steals. He ran the pick and roll with Nance, he hit spot up threes, he got out in transition. He played a complete game. Is he “figuring stuff out”? I don’t know about that. But you’re seeing evidence he can be a real player in the league. I’m not sure you can ask for much else.
He was helped by Clarkson, who contributed 28 points on 15 shots. Was it a sustainable performance? I’m not sure, as he made 6-8 three-pointers, but he also made some nice reads passing the ball and helped rebounding the ball. We’re probably too hard on Clarkson, who genuinely has been helpful off the Cavs bench for much of the season. He was the difference in this game, and now the Cavs don’t have the league’s worst winning percentage, an honor held by the New York Knicks.
Ante Zizic continues to earn his minutes, and the aforementioned Nance looked like the kind of piece Koby Altman had in mind when he gave the center a contract extension over the summer. Wins aren’t exactly what the team needs long term, but it feels good in the meantime. We’ll see you in the comments.