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Two for one: Well, the Cavs are just not giving up

I suppose the new lottery rules are set up for teams that keep trying to win.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

When it’s time to write these articles, one of the first things you do is look for a photo that sums up the proceedings. What happened here? Who won? What did it look like?

One thing I’ve noticed this year with the photo selection is that the vast majority of the choices involve whatever team the Cavs are playing keying the action; the other team tends to be driving to the basket, shooting the ball, talking to a coach. The message is clear. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not the story, their opponent is. Obviously, this has made sense for most of the season. The Cavs lose a lot of their games.

More and more, you get the sense the Cavs don’t really care. They keep hanging in there. They even win games. They won their third game in three tries over the New York Knicks — not good for their lottery prospects, but the current players on the team don’t really care. Let’s take a look.

POSITIVE: Cedi Osman has zero fear

21 points on 10 shots, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks? And a three-pointer in crunch time in pure rhythm? He’s not a lockdown defender, and it’s hard to see him being a consistent offensive creator at a high level, but he’s turned a corner in this season. There’s no reason why he can’t be a role player, and then some, on a very good team. This was the kind of game where practicing with LeBron James over the summer pays off in.

Was he nervous when he hit the court with those legends? Yep. Now? He’s fine.

NEGATIVE: Marquese Chriss is one answer, but let’s just go with the big picture

Chriss was not helpful tonight. He’s fighting for his NBA life, and he feels like he should be helpful. There are flashes. He’s just not putting it together consistently, and he hasn’t at any point in his career.

Really though, the Cavs are still waiting to figure out who can be a top-20 player on the team. Kevin Love is on the fringe, but he can’t be your focal point. It’s going to have to come from the draft, and each win moves them a little bit further away from that player. The players on this team should not care about that. They have to try and win. But Koby Altman may have added a few too many helpful players. Tristan Thompson is coming back too. If they end up with the sixth pick in the draft, maybe that’s a failure.

On the other hand, they wanted to develop young guys. If Sexton and Osman are improving, well, mission accomplished?

POSITIVE: Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton over-performed

The Cavs were the worst team in the league for the first half of this season. Their guard play was a big part of that. Clarkson has been pretty okay for a lot of the season, but that also involved playing almost exclusively bench units. He’s continued to hang in there. Sexton is finally earning his starting role. In the meantime, they seem to have each others backs. I keep seeing Clarkson get asked about Sexton’s play. Let’s be clear about something: This is almost certainly extremely annoying and frustrating for Clarkson. He’s an NBA player and having, by his standards, a good year. He’s not a babysitter.

And yet, he keeps talking Sexton up. He says nice things. It could be a lot worse. The Cavs got good games from both guards, and they got a positive result from it. They aren’t an easy fit, but if they both play well the team is in good shape.