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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ hard-fought 107-102 home win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
1. Man, that was fun. Out of nowhere, Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. appeared. But few things changed for the Cavs and Collin Sexton. They played smart, showed guts, had fun and won.
2. Oh, and Sexton become the first rookie in team history to score at least 23 points in seven consecutive games.
3. Think about that. Think about all the great rookies in Cavs history. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving. Ron Harper. Austin Carr. Brad Daugherty. I know I’m missing quite a few. But in this particular category, Sexton stands alone.
4. In one year, the Cavs went from a championship contender to a team that only hopes to win the draft lottery. But they also went from a team that was a whole lot of sizzle to one that has some real substance moving forward. With the way things have gone lately, I wouldn’t feel desperate to change too much despite the 19-53 record. Just add the two first-rounders and any good free agents you can snag.
5. Back to Sexton. He scored 25 on 10-of-18 shooting. He is averaging 26.3 points over the last seven games. He has attempted at least five 3-pointers in each, and is shooting 57 percent from beyond the arc in that stretch.
6. Along with all that, his seven-game streak is also the longest for any rookie since San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan did it 21 seasons ago. Now think about all the great rookies between Duncan and now.
7. Sexton drilled a huge three with 1:42 left then made a driving layup about a minute later to help ice the win. So it’s not just numbers. For Sexton, they have been winning numbers.
8. Overall, the Cavs did this as a team against the vastly undermanned and league-leading Bucks (53-19) — who were without MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and a couple other key pieces. But hey, it’s about time the Cavs were the ones without a bunch of their best players sidelined.
9. The lone bad news was that Kevin Love suffered yet another injury, this one apparently to his head, and had to leave in the third quarter. He finished just 1-of-10 shooting for six points, but did manage to collect 10 rebounds in 18 minutes. Love missed Monday’s win over Detroit with a back contusion. “He didn’t seem to be himself,” coach Larry Drew said.
10. Jordan Clarkson added 23 points in reserve and Brandon Knight had an underrated 13 to round out the Cavs’ double-figure scorers.
11. Thompson and Nance Jr. both came off the bench and finished with seven points apiece. Thompson went 3-of-3 from the field and collected six boards in 12 minutes. Nance had seven boards and a team-high five assists.
12. Thompson on what he’s seen lately: “Since the All-Star break, we’ve been playing well. I’d like to say if it was the NCAA Tournament, we’d definitely be a bubble team. We’ve got some good big wins.”
13. Perhaps no one felt better about having a nearly full squad (sans Matthew Dellavedova and his concussion) than Drew. “It felt good having that many bodies going into this game,” he said. “A couple days ago we, had to use a coach again to make it 5-on-5 (in practice).”
14. But as well as the Cavs have played as a team, it is Sexton who has been all the rage. Most rookies on non-playoff squads have had their fill of the season. They are waiting for some time off to readjust and get ready for next year. But Sexton is turning these final meaningless games into his own personal summer league. In fact, he’s been better than he ever was over the summer.
15. Imagine the Cavs winning the lottery and the rights to Duke star Zion Williamson. It’s OK, go ahead and dream big. Now imagine Sexton getting even more room to operate, something another really good player would provide. Imagine Sexton, Williamson, Cedi Osman, Love, Thompson and some other contributors not yet on the roster lining up for the start of next season.
16. OK, let’s scale it back a bit. Let’s say the Cavs only finish with the sixth pick. Could you package that pick with, say, Thompson and get another really good young player? I bet the Los Angeles Lakers would listen. Brandon Ingram anyone?
17. I’m not saying these Cavs with Williamson, Ingram or any other young player will be competing for a title next season. But I am saying no matter what happens this offseason, Drew, Sexton and the Cavs are putting together something that could provide a regular season full of fun and growth right from the start. They are building a culture and setting a tone. And unless you’re playing for a championship, that’s really what it’s all about.