The Cavaliers have been fun to watch this last week thanks to the return of Kevin Love returning from injury. Love’s presence has allowed the young players to slot into more comfortable roles. As a result Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and Ante Zizic are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
Cleveland registered back to back wins this week as they took care care of business against fellow bottom dwelling teams. The Cavs coasted to a comfortable 111-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns. They backed that up with an exciting 112-107 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavs have now won three of their last four games. Here’s what we learned from this string of good play.
Ante Zizic continues his solid play
Zizic put together two solid games against the Suns and Grizzlies. The big man from Croatia continues to show that he has excellent touch and footwork in the low post. That touch and footwork were on display as he was able to go against two teams that use more traditional bigs. As a result Zizic put up 18 and 15 a piece in those games while shooting 81.3% from the field and grabbing 9.5 rebounds a contest.
While Zizic has been solid recently, it’s still fair to question what his role on this team is moving forward. There is only so much utility for a low post big-man that primarily operates with his back to the basket. Furthermore, Zizic hasn’t shown that he can move his feet well enough to defend well on the perimeter when he gets switched onto opposing guards. While it’s okay to appreciate how good he’s been recently, it’s fair to remain skeptical about what kind of player he can turn into.
Zizic has had flashes of solid play since being inserted into the starting lineup because of injuries. If anything, his play has shown that he deserves minutes to close out the season even if Tristan Thompson and John Henson return from injury.
Kevin Love’s outlet passes have been off the mark since returning
Love has become famous for his cross court outlet passes he makes after coming down with a defensive board. Those outlet passes have typically turned into easy transition baskets for his team. Since coming back from injury, Love has turned the ball over on all four “touchdown” passes he’s attempted.
This clip below is pretty indicative of all four misses. Most of these outlet passes have been under-thrown and led to pretty easy steals by the opponent.
It’s interesting that we’ve gone from seeing him seldom turn it over on these passes to turning it over on his last four attempts. However, a couple turnovers like this isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Cedi Osman is settling into his role
Osman and Sexton have both really benefited from Love’s return to the lineup, as both players have slotted into roles that are more beneficial for their skill sets. Osman however has shown in this last week that he and Love do have some natural chemistry on the court.
Osman has made a point of finding Love open when he can. Five of Osman’s seven assists this week went to Love. Four of those resulted in three pointers for Love like the clip below.
Osman’s game is best suited when paired alongside a high usage player like Love. This was the first week that we’ve seen both players share the floor since the very beginning of the season. As a result Osman put together two solid games with Love where he put up 19 and 11 points respectively while shooting 57.1 percent from deep on 14 attempts. We should be able to get a better glimpse of what kind of player Osman and Sexton could become when their playing roles that are more conducive for their games.
Marquese Chriss has regressed to the mean
Chriss had a strong couple after first getting arriving in Cleveland. Unfortunately, his play this last week has reminded us why this is his third team in three seasons. Chriss struggled to make a positive impact on the floor this week has he totaled just 12 points in two games on four of 13 shooting.
The Cavs will and should continue to give Chriss as many chances as possible to shine. We’ve seen the immense skill and athleticism that he has. A team in the Cavs position should be taking on as many players who have that kind of skill-set as possible in the hopes that they can maybe find lightning in a bottle.
Love appears to be in all-star form
Love’s performance against Memphis on Saturday night served as a reminder of just how good of an offensive player he can be. He finished the night with a dominant 32 points and 12 rebounds on nine of 15 shooting while logging just under 26 minutes of play.
It’s easy to forget just how good Love can be. He’s been overshadowed by two of the very best offensive players in the league for the better part of his time in Cleveland. This has led some to rightly question just how good of a player he still us. The game has changed drastically since Love was the focal point of an NBA offense in 2014.
Nothing Love has done this week answers whether or not he can still be a focal point of an NBA offense. But that doesn’t mean his play hasn’t been encouraging to say the least.