Good: Great showing from the young guards
With Jordan Clarkson out of the mix, the Cavs are betting on their trio of young guards to shoulder a bigger load. Lead by Collin Sexton, who has been heating up lately, those guards stepped up in a big way.
Sexton appears to have abandoned his three point shot lately, but has replaced it with a relentless pursuit of the basket. He was active on the defensive end, and assertive and decisive defensively. Even if his drives didn’t generate an assist opportunity, it forced the defense to collapse and generated secondary opportunities.
Meanwhile Kevin Porter Jr. excelled in his first game after inheriting the Clarkson role. His activity is contagious and gave life to the team in the second half after they cooled off from their hot first quarter. His two-way impact, combined with a confident offensive performance from Darius Garland helped swing the game in the Cavs favor.
The three guards combined for 61 points, giving the team an intriguing taste of what the future could look like.
Positive: Cavs playing with pace
Some of this may be acquiescing to the Hawks style of play, but it was refreshing to see the Cavs get out and run for a change. Given the youth on the team, and the struggles in the half-court, the Cavs should be a team that prioritizes getting out in transition.
The energy gained from playing up-tempo, as well as the increase in touches for everybody involved, seemed to pay dividends on both ends of the floor. While the defense still had countless lapses, the effort level was encouraging. Which is what you would hope for given the amount of youth the team is relying on.
Negative: Defense and ball control continue to be a mess
The Cavs continue to shoot themselves in the foot with unforced turnovers and a lack of discipline. Whether it be ill-advised drives or passes, the Cavs make things far too difficult on themselves by gift wrapping extra possessions for the opposition.
The fourth quarter meltdown was some of the most frustrating basketball we’ve seen out of this team all season. While some of the poor composure in closing time could be attributed to the lack of experience on court. However some of the mistakes were unforced and due to poor focus.
Maybe you could stomach some of that if the team was capable of getting stops on the other end. But given the makeup of the roster, that might not be a realistic expectation.
Ultimately, the Cavs were able to dodge a bullet and come away with their third straight win. But what they need to work on for the next game should be fairly clear.