Dribbles: Loss shows what Cavs will seek, and why, this summer

Jordan Clarkson and the Cavaliers are playing some hard-nosed basketball, but were unable to overtake Marcus Smart and the Celtics.

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 116-106 home loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

1. Kevin Love gave the Cavs a whole lot of not much, but at least Love admitted it. “If I was worth a (expletive) tonight, we would have won,” he said.

2. Love was right. He wasn’t good. At least, he wasn’t himself. He missed his first eight shots. He finished 3-of-13 from the floor for a 10 measly points. He did collect 11 rebounds, so hey, at least you knew he was on the floor.

3. That really is a major difference between the past four seasons and this one. Last year, when Love had a bad game, the Cavs still had LeBron James. Two years ago, they had James and Kyrie Irving. Now, it’s just Love and some young players who aren’t bad, but who are still finding their way.

4. So what does that tell you? It tells you the Cavs (19-56) will need to rectify this for next season. They will likely still have Love. They will likely still have Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and Jordan Clarkson, too. But they enter the offseason knowing they need at least one more pretty good guy, preferably a really good guy.

5. Maybe that player will come from the draft. Or maybe he will come from the draft and from within. After all, Sexton has played very well lately, scoring a game-high 24 points against the Irving-less Celtics. Clarkson added 18 off the bench and Osman finished with 15 points and seven boards.

6. As usual, the Cavs made a push to win this one. But the Celtics (44-31) are playing for something more than just a draft pick. Their desperation showed. Even without Irving for all of the games, they swept the season series.

7. Now, the Cavs do intend to be a player in free agency. They won’t land the top tier stars such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker or the rest. They know that. But they will lose some free agents and they will almost definitely make a trade to unload some salary. So they will be certainly courting some second- and third-tier guys. Unrestricted free agents such as Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic, Orlando’s Terrence Ross and Charlotte’s Jeremy Lamb are likely on their list.

8. Of course, almost everything the Cavs do this offseason will be determined by what happens in the draft lottery May 14. If they wind up with the fifth or sixth pick (entirely possible under the new everyone-is-almost-even lottery rules), they will put entirely less stock in the draft.

9. But the Cavs do want to be better next season. They do want to be relevant. They have seen how the Milwaukee Bucks have risen to the top of the Eastern Conference behind Giannis Antetokounmpo — who, by the way, was not drafted with the first, second or even 10th overall pick. Antetotokounmpo actually was selected 15th in 2013.

10. And after landing the Greek Freak, the Bucks rose to and stuck around the middle of the pack in the standings for a while. That’s where a lot of fans insist you should never be. But reality is, no one goes from tanking to a title in one season. You have to take the logical steps. You have to start winning some games. The teams that play the lottery year after thankless year are usually there for a reason.

11. So if anything, Love’s struggles Tuesday show the Cavs will need at least one more player for a serious playoff push. They know that and they are determined to find that player (or players) this very summer.

12. As for the actual game, Cavs coach Larry Drew had this to say: “Our guys were fighting. We were right there. It didn’t get away from us until that fourth quarter. Missed a couple of shots and had a couple of turnovers. It went from a six- or eight-point game to a 12- or 14-point game.”

13. That’s been the story of the Cavs’ late season, and that’s OK. They just need to keep playing hard, developing and taking their lumps. There are only seven games left and the next five are on the road.

14. Finally, yes, it’s bizarre that Irving always seems to rest for games in Cleveland. But Kyrie does and says a lot of things that could be considered …. well, different. I’m not about to hate on him here. There’s enough of that on social media and the world in general. But Irving is eligible for free agency this summer and while his talent is remarkable, he has not been good this season in terms of warming up to his coaches and teammates. He remains injury-prone to boot. Translation: Sign Kyrie to a max contract at your own peril.

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