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Well, Cavaliers fans, that wasn’t so bad.
Granted, it was just a preseason game, but at least the Cavs’ first exhibition without LeBron James didn’t end up a total disaster. Just the opposite, actually, as the Cavs went to Boston and defeated the Celtics by a 102-95 count in their exhibition opener Tuesday night.
The Cavs’ regulars played the entire first half and had outscored the Celtics’ regulars by a 59-40 count at the intermission.
Kevin Love and the Cavs know the game didn’t count. They know the Celtics were playing without Kyrie Irving, who sat out to rest. They especially know how teams that are considered contenders, such as this year’s Celtics, have a hard time taking the preseason seriously.
But for the Cavs, all of that is beside the point. They just wanted to learn a little something about themselves against some real live competition.
Potential lesson learned, Love said in an interview with Yahoo Sports.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Love said of the season ahead. “It’s definitely going to be a growth year for us. We feel like if we’re in shape, if we play physical, if we shoot the ball well, we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”
Love looked confident and comfortable, scoring 17 points in his 17 first-half minutes. Second-year man Cedi Osman added 11 points and seven rebounds and Rodney Hood scored 10. Like Love, those two took a seat at halftime.
Oh, and let’s not forget rookie point guard Collin Sexton. All he did was score 15 points in his first crack at something resembling NBA competition. That included 2-of-3 shooting on 3-pointers.
It was merely a test quiz, but the Cavs passed.
Coach Tyronn Lue told reporters it “wasn’t perfect,” but admitted he was pleased how the Cavs brought their new game plan to life.
It was Lue who insisted “no tanking” on media day, insisting the Cavs are back in it to win it. Or at least play to win.
“The culture is still the same,” Lue said. “We want to continue to win games while developing players.”
And it was Love who signed a four-year, $120 million extension to extend his Cavs career during the offseason. Forget the money, in today’s NBA, All-Stars don’t want to stick around if a team is only committed to losing.
“Anytime you lose the best player in the world, you take a step back,” Love told Yahoo. “I didn’t want to be a part of something where we were tanking or we were going to be in the lottery every year.”
It’s still hard to know how far the Cavs can go after one meaningless game. But looking good is always the goal and the Cavs can feel good about that.