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Two for one: Cavaliers inexperience shows in season opening loss to Magic

The Cavs were unable to overcome the holes they dug for themselves in their season opener.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Here is the first two for one from the 2019-20 season, taking a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 94-85 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Positive: Starting five looked like the Cavs’ best unit

Of all the things you hope for on opening night, this was probably the most important. The lineup of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson was by far their most competitive on Wednesday night.

The sample size is far too small to do anything with. But considering this was nearly a double digit loss to a very good defensive team how the starters performed was encouraging:

There was still some confusion as the unit got into their sets, but they typically were able to generate quality looks and finish efficiently. The strong start and third quarter run both came with that five, which is a good sign as this team tries to figure things out.

Moving forward, I would anticipate that they try to get Love a little more involved in the offense. He’s the most reliable offensive hub on the team, and was a little too passive in looking for his own shots. Calling plays to get him looks and Love being assertive when he gets the ball can help establish a hierarchy within that unit offensively.

Positive: Cleveland showed resilience

I’m going to cheat a little bit here and mix in some negatives with this positive. The bad stretches for the Cavs were really bad. They stopped moving off ball, some poor isolation attempts from the second unit, and the shot selection at key moments left a lot to be desired.

That being said the team showed composure and battled back several times throughout the night. Yes, basketball is a game of runs. But any time the Magic went up and gave the Cavs an opportunity to lose their composure they didn’t. Defensively. it was similar to their overall game. There were some truly horrendous lapses on that end, but there was an uptick in effort and understanding at least in comparison to last season.

Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman both had their share of mistakes on that end. But they also showed some good instincts at times and forced a few turnovers or tough shots by the opposition.

Some of the offensive inconsistency for the Cavs could be credited to the Magic, who were very strong defensively last year. But the same could probably said for the Cavs defense at times, with how poor Orlando was on that end of the floor.

It’s probably too early to tell, but continued effort on that end of the floor and improved understanding could help the Cavs go from the worst defense in history to simply a bottom three-to-five finish on that end.

Negative: Growing pains all around

From top to bottom, there were plenty of cringe-worthy moments from this team. The first that jumps out is how long it took John Beilein to get his starting unit back in together. After subbing out Love with 6sixminutes remaining in the first quarter, that effective unit wasn’t reunited until the final minute of the second quarter! At which point they promptly went on a mini run to close out the half.

As for the young guys, there were numerous things to work on. Garland presents the Cavs with a new challenge for a guard, somebody who would benefit from being a little more selfish. It’s clear that he is looking to find the right balance between hunting his own shot and running the offense. Garland forced a few passes and seemed tentative at times when he likely would have been able to take an open shot.

Osman had a truly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game. He was the only member of the Cavs to have a positive plus/minus in the first half and looked really composed. Only to follow that up with a hellish third quarter where he missed open spot up looks and turned the ball over by pressing.

Kevin Porter Jr. had a couple nice passes and was able to generate open looks for himself, but everything after that was a mess. He’s still incredibly young and being able to generate open looks for himself against a defense like Orlando is impressive. But he’s going to need to show a little more finished or improved shot selection in order to stay in the rotation moving forward.