The Cavs got Kevin Love back on Wednesday after he was dealing with a back injury. His return, though, did not propel Cleveland to a win, with the team losing 116-104 to the Magic. Love, in 24 minutes, scored a season-low 9 points and pulled down five rebounds. Let’s get into the rest of the game.
Negative: Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers
The biggest culprit in Cleveland’s loss was turnovers. Twenty-five of them, in fact, leading to 25 Magic points. That’s a new season high, surpassing the 19 turnovers the team had on Nov. 18 against the Knicks. Aside from Larry Nance Jr., every Cav who played committed at least one turnovers.
Not surprisingly, the two Cavs who committed the most turnovers were rookie guard Darius Garland (who had a team-high eight) and second-year guard Collin Sexton (who had five.) Young guards who have the ball a lot are going to make mistakes. Sexton, though, did have a season-high six assists.
Garland, for his part, had a mix of bad pass turnovers and ones where he just wasn’t entirely aware of where he was on the floor. Those feel fixable and credit to the Magic — who are very long and have a borderline top-10 defense — for crowding passing lanes and making life hard on Garland.
Positive: Collin Sexton constantly going for it
As the turnovers show, Sexton’s night was not perfect. Some of his turnovers came when he’s going at 100 miles per hour and is trying to do a bit too much. One of the next steps for him feels like slowing just a bit and using his burst in a more controlled manner.
That said, Sexton constantly trying to make things happen is a dimension no other Cavs really provides. He is constantly moving — particularly on offense — and was the main driver of Cleveland’s repeated attempts to cut into Orlando’s lead in the second-half. Without him, particularly on an off night for Jordan Clarkson, there was no one else to do it. His final stat line: 20 points, 8-14 shooting, 3-3 from the line, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turnovers in 32 minutes.
Negative: Wing defense remains a roster hole
Alfonzo McKinnie is a decent NBA player. Cedi Osman yo-yos between quality and looking out of his depth. Kevin Porter Jr. does 3-5 things a game that pop, but he’s still very raw. Who knows what Dylan Windler will be when he finally plays this season.
Even though that group has interesting talent, the Cavs’ biggest roster need for this year and beyond might be wing defense. None of those players project as high-end defenders. Osman might have the best upside on that end and he’s likely never going to be a lockdown, take-on-the-best guy defender. Porter Jr. has been better than advertised, but his upside is still far higher on offense.
Look at what Evan Fournier and Terrance Ross did on Wednesday, it’s a reminder that finding (or developing) good wing defenders is a necessity:
Are those elite of the elite nights for either player? No. But both players are above-average wings and the Cavs don’t really have a guy to throw on either of them in hopes of taking them out of the game. Having John Henson, who is still out with an injury, might help too considering he’s the best rim protector on the team and non-Tristan Thompson lineups are absolutely atrocious on defense.
Really great wing defenders are hard to find. Elite teams often hoard them. Some — like Andre Roberson and David Nwaba — have warts that make them hard to play in crunch time due to their offensive limitations. But Cleveland really could use just one solid one to make the roster a bit more complete.