The Cavs held on in an ugly game to notch a 107-104 win over the New York Knicks.
Let’s set aside the conversation on tanking for a moment. Everyone knows that these were two of the worst team’s in the league, and at the end of the season having the worst record becomes helpful. Maybe not as helpful as it once was, but it’s still helpful - knowing you won’t drop lower than fifth or sixth would bring a little more peace of mind to the lottery process. But it’s a really long season, and the Cavs have struggled to win, and the Cavs have struggled to find joy. They might be finding a little. Let’s start there.
POSITIVE: Collin Sexton and some of these guys are enjoying themselves
The Cavs are getting a little healthier. Kevin Love is starting to play a bit, and Larry Nance, Jr. finally looks effective. After this game Nance called it a gritty win, and it’s true. They certainly didn’t win with skill. Nance himself had 15 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists. He made some questionable passing decisions, but he said postgame that he’s enjoying his time and team has stayed together.
That’s not nothing. We’re a few weeks removed from the coach having to assure us that he was happy to have his job. Collin Sexton finally say himself have some success in a couple games, and even if he didn’t have things going offensively tonight he made two late free throws and was smiling out on the court the whole night. His body language is better. Maybe it matters, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe these guys will be around, maybe they won’t. But I’d rather see the Cavs play with energy and joy, and somehow they’re finding it.
NEGATIVE: Obviously they might be out on some ping pong balls
Kevin Love is working his way back. Tristan Thompson is close. Those are probably the Cavs best players and they are going to be healthy soon. A loss tonight would have helped counteract potential Cavs wins moving forward. The Knicks seem to have bought completely into the tank — they need the trade ammunition to try and add Anthony Davis this summer, in addition to the designs they have on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Long story short, it could be pretty difficult for the Cavs to put themselves in the best possible position to pick in the top five this summer.
The team does not have a top-20 player, and the draft is really their only route to one. Positive steps forward from this crew is nice, but they still need a massive influx in talent.
POSITIVE: Kevin Love looks assertive and spry
I’m tempted to go with another negative — holy smokes the Cavs struggled once again with the zone defense — but they won, so let’s avoid that. Let’s look at Kevin Love.
He scored the Cavs first five points, and had the team’s best plus/minus. He took 10 shots in 16 minutes, took threes, posted up and really asserted himself on the game. He pulled down nine rebounds in that short time, and turned the ball over three times for good measure. I’ll take the turnovers — work off that rust, force yourself into the basketball game. He knew he was going to get limited time out there, so play with that burst of energy over a shorter period of time. With Nance playing well, the two could make a really nice duo. Without Tristan though (even with Tristan, honestly), the defensive ceiling probably isn’t high enough.
But hey, we’ll see.