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CLEVELAND — Well, so much for the Cavaliers’ dreams of a preseason championship.
Actually, that’s not really a thing, and what the Cavs learned about themselves Monday is they still have some fine-tuning to do. That’s just fine, too, because that’s what the preseason is all about.
The games don’t matter, so the 111-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers is perhaps not a sign of things to come at Quicken Loans Arena.
At least, coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavs sure hope not.
The Cavs didn’t put their best foot forward, but they did keep their tender feet on the sidelines. Kevin Love sat out with a sore foot. Same with Rodney Hood. And Cedi Osman exited for good at the end of the first quarter, experiencing a sore foot of his own.
Several others played as if they had blocks of granite for feet.
“I don’t want to say we took a step back, it’s the preseason,” Cavs swingman Kyle Korver said. “But we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
The Cavs were never really in it, not until late, when Korver (17 points) put on a shooting show and two-way wing John Holland (13 points) continued to display several flashes of promise.
Meanwhile, for the first time this preseason, rookie point guard Collin Sexton looked like a rookie. Sexton finished 1-of-7 shooting, scoring three points and committing three turnovers.
Sexton and the Cavs’ new up-tempo offense were mostly sharp in their first two exhibition runs against the Boston Celtics. But this time, the Cavs just played fast. The execution part was lacking.
“In the first half, we didn’t trust the offense, we weren’t moving bodies or moving the basketball,” Lue said. “We were a little stagnant.”
With LeBron James no longer here, Lue wants to see mostly the opposite of what went down Monday. The Cavs will have to survive off the pass, off the screen and off lots of cutting to the basket. Basically, the fundamentals of offense.
But when you’re without two starters all night, and a third for most … well, it will probably take some time to get everyone on the same page.
On the other hand, the Pacers are a veteran team that took LeBron and the Cavs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs last year. They played most of their starters for much of the early-going Monday, and man, they were clicking. Old foe and All-Star guard Victor Oladipo especially had himself a time with 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
As for these new-look Cavs, Korver stressed one preseason clunker is nothing more than your everyday learning experience. The Cavs are implementing a new scheme. For the first time, it was a struggle.
“You know, we’re trying to play with a ton of motion, a ton of energy,” Korver said. “Everyone is moving every single possession. Once we get into sync, there’s going to be more open looks than what everybody thinks. But everyone has to evolve their game from last year.”
For the record, Love and Hood sat out strictly for precautionary reasons, and those are the same reasons why Osman never returned. All are just fine, health-wise.
George Hill added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cavs, who wrap up the preseason Friday vs. the Detroit Pistons in East Lansing, Mich.