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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 106-99 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.
1. How do you explain this year’s Cavaliers? Perhaps as a team that doesn’t know any better, doesn’t really care about your opinions on tanking and doesn’t comprehend the idea of giving up.
2. The Cavs were on the road … against an Eastern Conference contender … without Kevin Love … and still managed to hold a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. This coming just one night after they made mincemeat of the Toronto Raptors.
3. Actually, the Cavs weren’t just without Love, who missed the game because of a planned night of rest. But they remained without Tristan Thompson (foot), Larry Nance Jr. (chest) and Marquesse Chriss, suspended for one game after Monday’s fight with Toronto’s Serge Ibaka.
4. So Tuesday, the frontcourt basically consisted of Ante Zizic, Channing Frye and the empty chair at the end of the bench. In the event those three fouled out, the Cavs may have asked Collin Sexton to step in.
4. Hey, why not? The rookie point guard did everything else — finishing with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting and 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. This coming one night after Sexton erupted for 28. If the NBA regular season only consisted of the previous two nights, Sexton would probably be in the top three or four in scoring. He is coming a long way, baby.
5. And if the NBA consisted only of the previous two nights, Larry Drew just might win Coach of the Year. He has actually been this good all season — one season after a very different Cavs team went 9-1 on Drew’s watch. If Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman are paying attention, Drew will have the job next season, too.
6. This isn’t to say the Cavs (17-51) are moving forward with the roster as is, or that they no longer care about landing Duke stars Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett in the draft. Far from it. Rather, it’s to show that Drew is building a tough mindset in the locker room and among the probable returnees on the court. He is making the best of the hand he’s been dealt.
7. Keep in mind Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Sixers were having their way early, building a 24-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Yes, the Cavs scored a meager 12 points. But they kept grinding, fighting, scrapping and behaved like a basketball gnat the Sixers just couldn’t swat. The Cavs actually won the final three quarters by an 87-82 count.
8. For the Cavs, the excuses to get blown out were there. They were playing a playoff team for the second consecutive night. They were on the road with just nine guys in uniform. They walloped the Raptors, and shouldn’t that be good enough?
9. Drew on the Cavs’ refusal to quit: “That’s a sign of growth with my team. In the past we’ve been in those situations and haven’t responded to it. They got a lead, we kept fighting, we kept fighting, twice we did and came back and took the lead. I give my guys credit for continuing to play hard and compete at a high level. We just came up short.”
10. Cedi Osman added 18 points in another fine effort for the Cavs, and Jordan Clarkson scored 13, though he struggled to the tune of 5-of-20 shooting. Osman also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
11. Simmons, who has worked out at Garfield Heights High School near Cleveland in the summer, led the Sixers with 26 points. “We did a lot of damage to ourselves in terms of the turnovers. At the same time, they had the energy, which we were lacking a little bit.”
12. Simmons spoke the truth about turnovers. The Sixers committed 21, compared to just seven for the Cavs. But he was also right about the Cavs’ overall energy. It truly was amazing when you consider how they dominated the Raptors one night earlier.
13. Drew again: “I think we’re moving in the right direction. Playing against two tough teams, as we have the last couple of nights, and competing at the level that we’ve been able to compete, I think it says a lot about the team.”
14. So it will be an interesting offseason in Cleveland for sure. But Drew and the Cavs seem determined not to focus on that just yet. They apparently want to at least offer some fun basketball on the way there.