Dribbles: Cavs’ fight returns in another loss, and that’s a win-win

Newcomer Cameron Payne and the Cavaliers couldn't keep up with Cory Joseph and the Pacers in the first half.

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ toughie of a 123-115 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.

1. Well, at least the Cavs didn’t lose by 20 points like the previous five home games. So one streak was snapped.

2. I know. You’re thinking, “Gosh, Amico. You’re original. Your website is free and it is worth every penny.”

3. But hey, when you lose 10 straight like the Cavs, it’s important to find ways to have fun. Not only that but I now write about 11 posts a day. At least two of them are probably gonna stink.

4. Back to the game. The Cavs shot 72 percent in the third quarter. That is a season best. They may not shoot that well in any quarter again this season. In fact, I’ll even go as far as guaranteeing they don’t.

5. And they still lost by eight.

6. Finally, though, the fight returned. The Cavs (8-33) trailed by 20 points at halftime but didn’t give in against one the league’s best teams. This is how things were earlier this season — the Cavs would play hard, get after it, believe they could win. But they were just always overpowered, talent-wise.

7. I think the fans and even coach Larry Drew can live with that. I’ve said all along that a best-case scenario this season is for the Cavs to build a scrappy culture, and lose. That way the No. 1 overall draft pick (which we all know they will get) isn’t walking into total dumpster fire, as the dumpster floats away on the Cuyahoga River.

8. Jordan Clarkson led the way with 26 points, and while Clarkson is sometimes accused of hogging the ball, I love the way he plays. It’s the old gimme-the-ball and get-out-of-my-way mentality. He is constantly in attack mode. He always has some fire.

9. If I’m the Cavs, I might even begin putting Clarkson in the starting lineup with visions of him turning into the next World B. Free.

10. For those of you who don’t have access to Google, Free played for the Cavs in the mid-1980s and had one thing on his mind: Launching shots. He was a high scorer and a fan favorite, and even when the Cavs were losing (which they did a lot), they had someone to promote and someone people would pay to see.

11. With Kevin Love on the sidelines, the Cavs are screaming for that type of player. Clarkson doesn’t have Free’s consistent stroke from the perimeter or quirky personality, but he does have a similar approach. It goes something like this: Have Ball, Will Shoot. Questions?

12. Things might be a lot different this season if the Cavs got to play the Pacers (27-13) in all 82 games. Cleveland’s last win came at Indiana on Dec. 18. And had the Cavs just trailed this one by 13 at halftime instead of 20 …

13. Drew on the loss: “It was a great effort in fighting back, but there are no moral victories at this stage. We have to be better.”

14. Tristan Thompson and Cedi Osman added 15 points apiece. Thompson also pulled down 13 rebounds. Collin Sexton scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting in his best performance in quite some time.

15. And how about newcomer Cameron Payne? He scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in his Cavs debut. He looked comfortable in his role as a reserve point guard.

16. As for the Cavs’ previous free-agent pickup, Patrick McCaw, I have already written two stories about it. So I’m not going to go into much detail now. You can read the most-recent post here: Former NBA exec says Cavs did nothing wrong.

17. I have no clue if the Cavs did anything wrong. I doubt it. It seems to me like the Golden State Warriors found it fishy that the Cavs would sign their guy to a two-year deal, then waive that same player after just 18 minutes of court time.

18. But I’m also pretty sure the NBA approved the contract. Everyone in the world knew the Cavs had until Monday to make a season-long financial commitment to McCaw. They chose to exercise their right to opt out. No biggie, right?

19. I sure hope I’m right, because if the Cavs are found guilty and lose their first-round pick … man, I’m moving  back to Wyoming. (Don’t get your hopes up.)

20. Speaking of heading West, the Cavs play at New Orleans on Wednesday. They then visit the Houston Rockets, then the Los Angeles Lakers, then the Portland Trail Blazers, then the Utah Jazz, then the Denver Nuggets.

21. They won’t be back until Jan. 21 to face the Chicago Bulls for a 1 p.m. tipoff on Martin Luther King Day. The Cavs may be riding a 16-game losing streak into that game. In fact, I bet they will. And in the words of Charles Barkley, I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

22. Thaddeus Young scored 26 points to lead the Pacers. I gotta admit, I really love watching those guys play. So underrated, with a fantastic coach in Nate McMillan. The Cavs would be wise to model their approach after Indiana. That’s how you build winning basketball in a Midwest market.

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