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Two for One: The Cavaliers can’t hold an early lead

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Hot shooting can’t mask a hot garbage defense.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: In the Two For One, Fear the Sword’s staff will spotlight three takeaways from their last game featuring two positives and one negative from the action, or vice versa.

It’s hard to win when you can’t stop anybody. Anthony Davis is a fairly difficult thing to stop even when you’re good at stopping anybody. That was a weird sentence, but it’s been a weird season. Just go with it.

POSITIVE: The Jordan Clarkson experience

It’s easy to dog on Clarkson. He doesn’t have a history of making winning plays, he disappeared in the playoffs last season and has a tendency to hijack the offense.

The easiness of the jokes gets in the way of reality, though. The Cavaliers are so starved for any players that can create mediocre shots, let alone easy ones. A Clarkson bully-to-the-rim floater is rarely pretty, or in the flow of the offense, but when the alternative is a Tristan Thompson post-up on Anthony Davis, it starts to look pretty good.

Clarkson poured in another 21 points alongside three steals and three blocks. He keeps the Cavs going when it gets particularly ugly, and that deserves some credit.

NEGATIVE: The Cavaliers defense can’t stop anybody

You might notice that this point was held over from the Pacers game, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The Cavaliers scored 38 points in the first quarter and lost by 16. The Pelicans combined for 75 points in the second and third quarters to take control of the game, mostly on the back of Anthony Davis who scored one of the more effortless 38 point-outings that you’ll see.

For somebody like Davis, the Cavaliers just don’t have the bodies, in fairness. Tristan Thompson can do a serviceable job, but any action that generated a switch or any space for Davis resulted in an easy look. It’s not Jalen Jones or Channing Frye’s fault that they’re being asked to guard Davis in space.

Frank Jackson is another matter, however. Jackson scored 16 points on a stunning three total field goal attempts, hitting open threes and and hitting all seven of his free throw attempts. The Cavaliers just have to do better.

POSITIVE: Sexton got to the line!

Much was made of Collin Sexton’s early box score numbers early on as a starter. He started shooting slightly better from three and the field overall, but his true shooting percentage dropped. The primary reason? Free throw attempts.

Sexton is only averaging 2.3 free throw attempts per game, and that just won’t do for a player with a shaky jumper and below average height for the position. He wasn’t efficient from the field against New Orleans, finishing 2-12 from the field, but he salvaged his night with an 8-8 performance from the free throw line.

Sexton will need to get to the line to boost his efficiency, much like Russell Westbrook and John Wall do. Learning how to draw that contact is vital to his development.