The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2022-23 season has begun somewhat similarly to how it ended in defeat. Thankfully, for Cleveland’s sake, these games don’t count right now.
With a 113-112 preseason road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers fall to 0-1 in preseason play. Sure, there isn’t much to glean from the final score since, let’s be frank, it’s the preseason. But, there are some interesting subplots within the main event could be worth monitoring as Cleveland shifts focus to hosting Philadelphia at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Amidst the endless speculation on who will be the team’s starting small forward, Caris LeVert got the first crack at things for the Cavaliers. Looking to shake some of the notions surrounding him based on how last season ended, LeVert played well. He finished the night with 7 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and a block. LeVert primarily played as a complimentary piece on both ends of the floor to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, not looking to dominate the ball. All in all, not a bad look for LeVert and now has a few more chances to audition for the starting job.
After LeVert, Dean Wade got a shot with the starting lineup to begin the second quarter. He didn’t do much with the starting group — he connected on a single three-pointer and forced one Philadelphia turnover. Wade finished the night with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal. You could tell that at times Wade is still getting the hang of playing small forward — he had 2 fouls. But, for what Cleveland needs as a starting three, he fits the bill.
Following Wade off the bench were Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman, who were both a bit of a mixed bag. Okoro finished the night with 7 points, 3 rebounds and several misses from beyond the arc. Osman, meanwhile, had 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Osman’s was a bit more of a contribution stat-wise compared to Okoro. But, Okoro looked much more composed within the new offensive scheme Cleveland is rolling with, with his non-shooting deficiencies being covered by how bombs away the Cavaliers were elsewhere on the floor.
As a team, Cleveland connected on 14-33 three-point attempts. Kevin Love looked like his usual self out there — hitting on 3-6 attempts from beyond the arc. The tandem of Mitchell and Garland, meanwhile, individually took advantage of the gravity their backcourt playmate possessed. Mitchell was able to connect on 3-4 three-pointers while Garland was able to move the rock all over the floor due to the sudden lack of defensive pressure. Garland finished the night with 4 assists along with 12 points on 4-7 shooting. Mitchell, meanwhile, had 16 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal.
Not a bad debut for Cleveland’s new star backcourt. Again, it’s just the preseason but seeing these two looking so comfortable with one another already is a great foundation to build upon. It’s going to be a process for the Cavaliers all season long but it feels like they’ve at least gotten the bitter taste of last season’s end out of their mouth already.
Up next: The Cavaliers have their annual Wine and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday at Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center. After that, they host these same 76ers on Monday night for more preseason action.