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Two for One: Cavs bench keeps team alive, and starters finish win over hot Magic

The Cavs are rewarded for their persistence

NBA: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cedi Osman hit the dagger three, and it happened to coincide with the Cavaliers winning the fans in attendance free chicken nuggets. Everyone in the building was going nuts. This would be an impressive win, and hey, nuggets. Kevin Love sought out his teammates for demonstrative and sincere chest bumps. There was only one Cavalier who wasn’t impressed; Collin Sexton was vexed. He came over to the sideline pleading some sort of case. When Fear the Sword asked him after the game about it, he said that he had seen a matchup that dictated a switch for he or Cedi to attack. Channing Frye immediately met him on the sideline, and after about 45 seconds of explaining what he saw, secured a nod from Sexton. Coaching doesn’t always come from coaches.

Two Cavalier holdovers from the title era doing everything they can to build a bridge. Maybe it goes somewhere, maybe not. All worth celebrating, especially over chicken nuggets.

POSITIVE: The Cavs bench was phenomenal

The Cavs entered the final period down by five points. It would have been much worse were it not for David Nwaba, who single-handedly keyed a late mini-run. It seemed like the game might be getting away from the team for a minute, but Nwaba’s energy level didn’t let that happen.

Jordan Clarkson, too, deserves praise. He hit a couple important spot-up threes and was a team-best +20 in his 27 minutes. If the Cavs do decide to challenge for a playoff spot next year, he might be able to continue on in this role as an energy bench scorer. He acknowledged to Fear the Sword after the game that he needs to continue to improve and become more willing to take spot up threes, saying it’s on the agenda this summer. But he made a couple big ones in this one. Sometimes you need to see yourself have success to realize it can be a part of your game.

Marquese Chriss rebounded from a tough start and challenged some shots during the Cavs decisive stretch. Nik Stauskas made his best impression yet. And Matthew Dellavedova brought what he always does; at times, the Magic just weren’t interested in matching his energy levels.

POSITIVE: Kevin Love is back, and his teammates love it

Coming into tonight’s game, Collin Sexton had shared the court with Kevin Love less than he had shared the court with J.R. Smith this season. We learn game in and game out why that’s been so disappointing, but why this team might have more upside than we had thought. Let’s be clear: the Cavs really need an infusion of top-quality talent. But their “middle class” of players might be better than we thought. As Osman said after the game, everything is a little easier when you’re playing with an All-Star. Everyone has to do just a little bit less.

Love’s shooting numbers aren’t wildly impressive, but he found a way to stay efficient. More importantly, he played with exuberance. His teammates know he’ll have their back and celebrate their successes. Not every NBA veteran is like that on a lottery-bound team.

I’m continuing with the trend. This was a win over a pretty good team, so why try and find a negative?

POSITIVE: The Magic are playing pretty well - this wasn’t a basement dwelling team

The Cavs have turned their season around, to the extent that they have, with wins over bad teams. The Magic are not good, I don’t think, but they’ve been playing pretty darn well lately and are fighting for a playoff spot. Are they going anywhere in the playoffs? I doubt it. But this was a game the Cavs could have folded in, and it’s a game that a Magic team with something to play for might have put their foot down in.

But the Cavs with Kevin Love in the lineup haven’t been anything like what they’ve been without him in the lineup. They seem to be competitive. The stretch of schedule coming up is going to really challenge them. It will likely solidify their place as a contender for the top overall pick. That’s okay. These guys are having fun and showing a glimpse of what mild success could look like. They are playing with zero expectations, and taking advantage of it.