In a strange turn of events, the Cleveland Cavaliers were competitive in an NBA basketball game for what feels like the first time in weeks. It was one they ultimately lost 111-102, but still. They were so competitive, they even held a lead after the first quarter and halftime. It was foreign territory for the team and fans alike.
The first half had a lot of good things. Isaac Okoro looked comfortable and in control, Collin Sexton had an efficient 19 points, and even Mfiondu Kabengele was a positive contributor with nine first-half points thanks in large part to a pair of made threes. It was refreshing to see this team put forth the requisite effort to compete in an NBA game, even if it was against an opponent that reportedly hates its coach and is almost as much as a dumpster fire as the Cavaliers.
The third quarter wasn’t great for the Cavs, and it rarely is. They were held to just 17 points and went into the fourth quarter down a pair. It could have been worse, but it could have been much, much better.
The fourth quarter, as you might imagine, also wasn’t great. The team simply ran out of gas, thanks in part to the Cavs only having nine available players, and only eight of them playing while the game was close.
There are definitely some good things to take away from this loss, which is more than could be said about the first 10 losses of this losing streak. Okoro had his first double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and was legitimately pretty good on both ends of the floor. It looks like the game is starting to slow down for Okoro on the offensive end of the floor. Seeing him take a high volume of shots is a welcomed sight, even if he isn’t doing it super efficiently yet. That may come, but the willingness to shoot has expanded greatly from the start of the season. While that may be connected to Darius Garland’s absence, it’s still a positive thing to see.
Dean Wade also had a night worth highlighting. He had the first double-double of his career, too. Wrapping up with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Sexton also stuffed the stat sheet with 25 points, but only scored six of them in the second half, and didn’t seem all the way right after tweaking his leg early in the third quarter.
Defensively, this was the best performance the Cavs have had in quite some time. In the last 10 games the Cavs have allowed an average of 120.3 points per game, and that number was even worse in the last six losses, jumping up to 125.8 points per game. Limiting Indiana to just 111 points was a good thing.
All in all, this was sort of the perfect night for the Cavs right now. They’re beat up, exhausted, and just ready for the season to wrap up this weekend. Being competitive is a positive that hasn’t happened for quite some time, but the loss isn’t a bad thing, either. The most important standings to watch right now are the lottery ones, and a win would’ve been detrimental to that cause. It’s never a fun thing to want your team to lose, but for the Cavs, that’s probably the best thing for the franchise.
The Cavs are back in action on Wednesday night as the Boston Celtics come to town to wrap up the home portion of the 2020-21 season.