This was one of the more exiting weeks for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. They notched a win in their first game of the week against the New York Knicks and followed that up with a thrilling triple overtime loss against the Brooklyn Nets. There were several positives to take away from both games. Here’s what we learned this week.
Kevin Love’s presence allows Collin Sexton to use his speed in the half court.
Love looked pretty good in his second start since coming back from injury. He played most of the first half and finished the night with 14 points and nine boards on four of 10 shooting from the field.
The offense continues to look so much better in the half-court when Love is on the floor. His scoring ability and attention he demands off-ball allowed the team allows the offense to open up for everyone on the floor. Especially someone like Collin Sexton.
In this clip Sexton was able to get to the basket after beating his man because the defense was focused on what Love was doing away from the ball. Three defenders were looking at Love. By the time DeAndre Jordan saw Sexton streaking to the basket it was already too late to contest the shot.
Conversely, those lanes simply don’t exist when Love is off the floor. In a similar play to the one above, Sexton was able to beat his man off the dribble, but was met at the rim by a help defender because there’s no legitimate off-ball threat on the court. When Sexton makes his move to the basket you can see all five defenders staring at the rookie.
Sexton has had a hard time finishing at the rim this season as he’s shooting just 53.9% in the restricted area. Adding Love to the lineup for the remainder of the season should boost his efficiency around the rim. At the very least, we should be able to get a better idea of how Sexton finishes at the rim when playing in a competent half-court offense.
Jordan Clarkson can score 40 points in a game
It took three overtimes, but Clarkson became the first Cavalier this season to score over 30 points in a game. He finished the night with a career high 42 points, eight rebounds, and five assists while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.
Clarkson can be frustrating to watch at times, but aren’t many players that are more fun to watch when they have it going. Clarkson went through stretches of that game where he was making seemingly everything he threw at the rim.
I guess it really is Jordan Clarkson time every once in a while.
Marquese Chriss is doing his best to stick around in Cleveland
It’s easy to see why Chriss was a lottery pick in 2016. He has the athleticism and skills to be a high-end starter in the league. Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn is a perfect example of that. Chriss finished with an efficient 23 points on nine of 16 shooting while going three for six from distance. He also added what maybe the dunk of the season as he threw it down over Jarrett Allen who is one of the better defensive centers in the league.
Chriss has been great when he’s catching and shooting or driving to the basket. Unfortunately everything else continues to be a problem. Chriss has had a tough time staying in front of opposing players on defense and is often forced to commit fouls because of it. He fouled out of the game against Brooklyn in just under 28 minutes of action. There really is no excuse for that.
Chriss has looked good at times since coming over from Houston, but there is plenty of reasons to be concerned about his ability to stick with this team long-term. Fortunately for Chriss, the Cavs will give him an opportunity to show whether or not he can stick around in this league.
Collin Sexton can make winning plays
Sexton has strung together some decent games recently. The rookie is averaging 22.8 points on 44.4 percent shooting and 43.3 percent shooting from three in his last five games. He’s really benefited from playing on-ball more with Alec Burks and Rodney Hood being sent away at the deadline. Overall he has played more confident and sure of himself.
Sexton came up big in crunch time with a game tying layup that sent the game against Brooklyn to double overtime. It was great to see how poised and confident he was while driving to the basket with the game on the line. What easily got lost in all of that was how Sexton saved that position for the Cavs by crashing the boards and wrestling the ball away.
Plays like this often times make the difference between winning and losing games. It was encouraging to see Sexton make the right plays in crunch time. Sequences like this seem to indicate that the game is beginning to slow down for him.
Cedi Osman is a Rising Star and maybe more
Osman struggled to get anything going in the Rising Stars game on Friday night. He finished the contest with two points and an air-ball in a game that featured absolutely no defense.
The most interesting part of All-Star weekend for Osman came off the floor. He doesn’t seem like a guy who says things that he truly doesn’t believe which made it interesting that he said he could be an all-star one day. Osman stated before the game Friday, “From the last year until now I put a lot of work in. I know I can do this. I can be a Rising Star, I can be an All-Star.”
Osman has continued to improve and add new wrinkles to his game throughout the season. He’s established some consistency since the middle of January and is averaging 16 points on 51.5% from the field and 40 percent from three in his last 11 games.
It’ll be interesting to see if his efficiency improves once he’s able to play alongside Love for the remainder of the season. One of the difficult things about judging Osman this season has been the fact that’s been asked to play the four during much of this season has probably hurt his game on both ends of the floor. Sliding him back to his natural position and not being one of the focal points of the offense should allow him to play in a more comfortable role.
The idea of Osman turning into an all-star feels like a stretch at this point, but so did the thought of him becoming a viable starter in the league at this time last year. He’s surpassed expectations before. Clearly Cedi believes he can surpass them again.