On Saturday night the Cavs put in a largely uninspired effort against the Dallas Mavericks, and it resulted in a loss. Two nights later the team invited the Detroit Pistons, one of the hottest teams in the NBA, into Quicken Loans Arena and seemed to thoroughly surprise them with their energy and effort. Passing lanes were filled. The Cavs were constantly in transition. Timely shots were made.
The Pistons gave Blake Griffin the night off, and Kevin Love sat out with a sore back. It’s a game that the basketball team from Detroit probably thought they had in their back pocket.
Your Cleveland Cavaliers, 126. The Detroit Pistons, 119.
POSITIVE: Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton carried the Cavs to a win over a playoff team
That’s it. That’s the positive. That’s simply not something we would have seen coming two months ago. The Cavs want to build with these guys. Not around them; it’s just not clear they are at that level of prospect yet. But boy, they were good in this game. Collin Sexton is hitting threes, for the season, at a rate no one could have expected. He’s starting to do it on a higher volume, and his efficiency has gone up as a result.
Look, I wrote here in January that we just weren’t going to see improvement this year, but I wanted to just see him put together one (1) game where he saw himself have success. I was wrong, and he’s put together a number of good performances. Lots of NBA players go through good stretches. I’m not sure we should get ahead of ourselves. But this was an impressive performance against a pretty good team. He’s played like a top rookie after deservingly missing out on a Rising Stars spot.
For Osman, he’s bouncing back himself after a tough start. He and Sexton complement each other well. They play and guard different positions but can have the ball in their hands and create a little. Osman might be best cast as a sixth man on a good team when he reaches his peak. Maybe the Cavs get an elite wing to put next to him. Either way, it was really fun to see these guys get out in transition and hit shots in the fourth quarter. Larry Drew called it gratifying after the game. I like that.
POSITIVE: Marquese Chriss needed this second half
Chriss has struggled. It’s been painful. He has a lot to learn. But he seems like a good kid, and shows traits that made him a lottery pick every once in awhile. Tonight was one of those games. He rolled to the basket, pulled down some rebounds, and after another bad first half, kept battling. The bench as a whole was really bad in the first half. He was part of turning things around in the second half, and he should feel good about that.
We’re doing another positive because this win was nice.
POSITIVE: They did this without Kevin Love
The Cavs got absolutely rolled by the Pistons a couple weeks ago without Kevin Love. You could be forgiven for expecting that again tonight, even with Blake Griffin out. Ante Zizic was somehow a +23 in 25 minutes, and made things difficult for Andre Drummond around the rim.
We like to attribute a lot of the Cavs’ improved offensive outcomes to Kevin Love’s return. In this game, Sexton and Osman were able to make it happen on their own. Hopefully the new lottery rules reward the Cavs for not tearing down after LeBron James left.