Pindowns: Even in defeat, improving Cavs spill their guts

Cedi Osman of the Cavs hits the deck Friday night against the Clippers at The Q.

Forty-one random pindowns on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 110-108 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena…

1. Even though the Cavaliers lost Friday night, they won.

2. Say what? Though coming out on the short end on the scoreboard, the fact the now-19-54 Cavaliers still busted their tails in Game 73 in this season of struggle says one thing.

3. The fact they were disappointed in the outcome, where a victory would have given them a third-straight takedown of a playoff-bound team in a week, only cements it.

4. Though they are one of the worst teams in the NBA based on record, the Cavaliers have proven to be true professionals.

5. Take a bow, Larry Drew. You’ve earned it. You managed to take what amounted to The Island of Misfit Toys of the NBA, one that saw the guy who led the franchise to its first NBA championship three seasons ago, Tyronn Lue, given the gate after an 0-6 start.

6. It’s not just those in Northeast Ohio who follow them on a daily basis who have noticed the fact Drew’s troops play like dawgs ever night. And, yes, that is meant as a compliment.

7. “After the game, a couple of the Clippers coaches came up to me and said, ‘Your guys are playing really hard.’ We’ve been hearing that. These guys are playing for something and it’s called pride,” Drew said. “When you get in this situation it’s easy to roll over, but the one thing I want these guys to understand is you have to take the bitter with the sweet.”

8. But, Coach, it’s still loss No. 54…

9. “Sometimes, it’s not going to be the way you want it to be or how you hope it will be,” Drew said. “But you still have to play through tough times, you have to play through adversity, you have to play when you’re not feeling well, you have to play when you have little nicks and pains. Our guys are doing that and I’m very proud of them from that standpoint.”

10. Down two points with seconds to play and with the basketball on the game’s final possession, the Cavaliers got the shot they wanted.

11. Kevin Love set a screen for Jordan Clarkson. The Clippers surprised the Cavaliers by switching the screen, putting a bigger defender on Clarkson, who went to work and got off a good look on a 27-foot step-back three from the top of the circle.

12. The shot went in… and out, snapping Cleveland’s four-game winning streak at The Q.

13. “They did switch the screen and we didn’t think they were going to switch the screen and they ended up putting a bigger guy on me and I just got space,” Clarkson said. “It was halfway in and just rolled out. It was a shot I was confident in. I thought it was in. Shoot, it happens. Part of the game. Feel like I got a good look, it was open, and we got a good shot.”

14. Love, who returned to the lineup after sitting out a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, finished with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and eight boards in 33 minutes, liked the look Clarkson had.

15. “There was a split second there when there was kind of indecision between the two defenders,” he said. “When I saw JC one-on-one in that situation, I thought, ‘I’m going to get myself near the hoop and he’s going to give us a chance to win it, if not I’ll get a chance to put it back in.’ That thing was halfway down. We were happy with the shot that we got. That ball was right there. I’ll take JC in that situation any day. Just didn’t drop for us tonight.”

16. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his squad dodged a bullet. With a foul to give, it was supposed to be used on what turned out to be the final possession of the game. It wasn’t.

17. “We were supposed to foul on that last play, but didn’t,” Rivers said. “And we just got lucky they missed the shot.”

18. Larry Nance Jr. (14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 9 boards, 1 assist, 3 steals in 24 minutes), a teammate of Clarkson for four seasons — first in Los Angeles with the Lakers and now in Cleveland — thought the final shot was a game-winner, as well.

19. “I think anything JC shoots is going in. That guy is a walking bucket,” he said. “So yeah, that’s a shot we’ll live with 10 times out of 10, and the next time, it’s going in.”

20. Clarkson (20 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal in 33 minutes) surpassed Campy Russell (1,210) for most points by a bench player in a single season in franchise history with 1,221. Russell, now part of the Cavaliers’ pre- and post-game shows on FOX Sports Ohio with local legend Jeff Phelps, set the mark in the Miracle of Richfield season of 1975-76.

21. “Everybody got pride,” he said. “Everybody wants to come out here and compete. I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Everybody loves to hoop, especially me. I’m not just going to lay down for nobody. We’re going to come and compete every night. Try to get wins still, try to ruin some guys’ seasons and have them on break early with us, too.”

22. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton had 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting along with four rebounds and one assist in 31 minutes. He had his streak of scoring 23 or more points snapped at seven, which bested a mark for rookies last accomplished by Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs in 1998. It also snapped a skein of seven consecutive games the rookie point guard led the Cavaliers in scoring. Oh, by the way, Sexton also became the 26th rookie in NBA history to make 100 or more 3-pointers and score 1,000 or more points in a single season.

23. After scoring 40 points in the first quarter, the Cavaliers’ advantage was eventually, well, clipped. They found themselves down 10 with 6:30 to play, but as has been a trademark, they refused to throw in the towel and make it easy on the playoff-bound Clippers (43-30), who won their fourth straight game and have now won nine of their last 10 contests.

24. “This Clippers team is a good team and a physical team, those have been the type of teams that have given us the most problems because physically they wear us down, but we were able to weather the storm and sustain,” Drew said. “Changing up our defenses in the second half helped a lot, too. We have shown that we can compete against some of the better teams when we have a full squad. We do have a full squad right now and it feels pretty good.”

25. Cleveland is 7-8 since the All-Star break, including a 6-3 mark at home. Playing a gauntlet of a schedule this month, which includes only three games against teams not currently in the playoffs, the Cavaliers have managed a 4-7 mark. And two of those three games against non-playoff teams were against Orlando, which trails Miami by just a half-game for the eighth-and-final playoff spot in the East.

26. David Nwaba (8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block in 19 minutes) said it’s all about cohesiveness for the Cavaliers.

27. “We were playing together. Just having the whole squad together, you could see the improvement, the chemistry we’re building amongst each other,” he said. “We just played hard. We didn’t come out with the outcome we wanted, but we did see growth.”

28. Love, who went through non-playoff seasons in Minnesota before being traded to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, recognizes what’s transpiring.

29. “There will be some lulls, I think that’s to be expected, but I think it’s going to be key just knowing the right way to play coming into next year,” he said. “We’re still watching a lot of film, we’re doing a lot of good things in practice. Our attention to detail has been very high.”

30. However, unlike what went down with the Timberwolves, Love sees the Cavaliers gaining steam as the finish line is in sight for this season.

31. “My first couple years (with the T-Wolves), with so many young guys and playing on the youngest team in the league, that kinda dropped off towards the end of the season,” he said. “I’m thankful for our veteran guys that we’ve been able to lead by example and really pay attention to the little things that matter at the end.”

32. Unlike the past four seasons when LeBron James ran the show, from top to bottom, the first three with Kyrie Irving as his sidekick, the Cavaliers are not relying on one guy to man the helm. Truth is, none are capable, not even Love.

33. “You get one or two guys sharing the ball, making the extra pass, and it’s like ‘Hey, it makes me feel good and that guy feel good?’ It just kind of jumps around your team,” Nance said. “The next guy makes the extra pass, the next guy makes the extra pass. Some guy pump-fakes, they run out, I toss the ball to Tristan (Thompson), the next play, he drops it to me. Granted, I missed it… my bad, T, but it’s just something that makes you want to play for your teammates. And that’s when we’re at our best.”

34. The Cavaliers have a rematch with the best team in the league, record-wise, Milwaukee (54-19), on the road Sunday. Love said he and his teammates are more concerned about they are doing, though, as opposed to the opposition, as talented and successful as they may be.

35. “There’s some teams in the league at the very top that are crazy talented and they can get away playing a certain style of basketball,” he said. “But for us, we have to have it be infectious… we have to play the game. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, I don’t know if that’s the right word to say, but when we share the ball and we play for each other, we’ve been a better team all year long.”

36. Love pointed out the Cavaliers’ assist total is a direct reflection in terms of their bottom line. Cleveland had only 14 assists on 43 buckets against the Clippers, but…

37. “I think you’ve seen that in the games we’ve been very close or the games that we’ve won, we’ve shared the ball, he said. “At halftime, we had four assists. The second half, we shared the ball a lot more, kept ourselves in the game.”

38. Love, well, loves, how this bunch has been able to find a way to shake the many disappointments it’s dealt with this season.

39. “We’ve continued to be resilient,” he said. “There’s been times where there have been huge lapses or showed we haven’t played together all year or played at full strength. There’s times where we kind of shake our head coming into the locker room after bad losses.”

40. Perhaps so, but while the number 54 sits on its ledger in the loss column, there is zero quit on the effort side for Cleveland, which enters play as one of three teams with the best chances of winning the NBA lottery and landing its grand prize, Duke phenom Zion Williamson, or being a prisoner of the moment, Ja Morant of Murray State.

41. “But we’ve really picked it up and played really well in games after that,” Love said. “It’s been good to see ourselves play well against teams that are fighting for playoff spots, that are in the playoffs. This is (the way) we wanted to finish the season and I think it’s good to take those strides in the right directions, whether we win or we lose, so long as we’re fighting to get better.”

2 Comments on "Pindowns: Even in defeat, improving Cavs spill their guts"

  1. Philip Rusch | March 23, 2019 at 4:18 pm |

    Cavs made the Clippers have to play it out to the end so you have to give them credit for that.

    Most of the Cavs wins of late though have an asterisk on them because either they were playing bad teams or a key player of the opposition wasn’t playing. That being said, the March 11 win against the Raptors was a genuine pasting and will probably be the highlight of the season.

    We’ll get a good read on the Cavs and where they stand when their upcoming five game road trip begins on March 28.

    • Definitely agree, Phil. I’d expect the Cavs to struggle on that upcoming road sojourn. However, that’s how lessons are learned and toughness is bred. This team seems to be galvanizing itself down the stretch, which is a victory in itself. Thanks for reading, Phil.

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