The Cavs did something competent on Wednesday in beating the Hornets 100-98. They beat a team on the second half of a back-to-back when the Cavs weren’t and kicked off a three-game homestand with a win. It’s not a sign that everything is going to be suddenly good now, but it’s maybe a sign that this group isn’t a total disaster either. Even if they almost lost the game late. Let’s get into it.
Positive: Cedi Osman’s good scoring night
Fifteen of Osman’s 18 points — tied for his second-highest total this season — came in the first half and he somewhat disappeared in the second half. But overall, this was a good Osman offensive night and it had a little bit of everything. He made a catch-and-shoot three-pointer. He created for himself on drives to the rim. He cut well off Kevin Love at the elbow and was on the receiving end of a Love full-court pass. From a scoring perspective, this was as well-rounded of a game as he’s had.
Negative: The formula for this win wasn’t ideal
At halftime, the Cavs were 1-13 on three-pointers and had taken zero free throws. While they did a great job of scoring inside in the first two quarters — 44 of their 51 first-half points came in the paint — it was a lot of short mid-range shots and not looks right at the rim. By the end of the game, Cleveland was 7-26 from three and took 17 free throws. Twenty-five turnovers — against just nine for the Hornets — was also far too many and led to a 24-point lead being whittled down to single digits late in the fourth quarter.
Had Hornets guard Terry Rozier — who the Cavs could not defend in the fourth quarter — made the wide-open three he took at the end of the game, it would have been turnovers that caused the defeat. And what preceded it? Collin Sexton dribbling the ball off of his foot and turning it over. Sexton also led the team with five turnovers.
Is this nitpicky? Absolutely. Sometimes you win however you can and make adjustments for the next game. But shots in the mid-range against better teams won’t be there and shooting that bad from three on most nights means a loss. The Cavs also almost blew this one and certainly could have avoided it.
Positive: Darius Garland, racking up assists
Maybe his passing ability was undersold coming into his rookie year. Perhaps he’s doing this by necessity because Sexton just doesn’t. Maybe it’s a mix of both. But Garland has quietly been one of the Cavs’ better distributors on nights where he looks for passes. Wednesday was one of those nights, as he racked up six assists against two turnovers. They weren’t always the flashiest assists, but they were sometimes the simple read a team needs a lead guard to make or an on-target lob. That’s not nothing.
Garland still missed some passes, particularly when teams blitz him in the pick-and-roll and he loses track of the roll man. Most of the time, that has meant Kevin Love is missed on the baseline. He also almost threw away the ball with 4:09 to go when the Hornets pressured the Cavs in the backcourt and he wasn’t aware of where some defenders were. But the vision for Garland is there. He should start making those reads sooner rather than later.
Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant and the Grizzlies come to town on Friday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.