The Cavs took a wild route to their 10th win of the season, surrendering an eight point fourth quarter lead before scoring on a wild offensive rebound and jump hook by Alec Burks to retake the lead with 17 seconds left, before two big stops and two big free throws by the Cavs put a lid on things for the Bulls.
Larry Drew wanted this one badly, and played Dellavedova down the stretch over the struggling (to put it nicely) Collin Sexton. Delly was a game high +10 with 16-4-5 in 22 minutes: not too shabby. But the real bench star was Jordan Clarkson who played one of his best all-around games as a Cav with 18-7-6 on just 11 shots. He was running the offense and finding open players with regularity. Larry Nance didn’t score but despite just one assist to go along with his five boards, got his teammates to the free throw line more than once. Deng Adele looked like a real honest-to-God NBA player with two big threes and an even bigger block in the early fourth quarter. If you’re counting, that was 40 big bench points.
As for the starters, Ante Zizic played big and spry with a career high in rebounds in his 8-14-3 line. Cedi dropped 17 on rim runs, threes, drives, cuts, and the occasional post up. I said during the game, that he has the chops and variety to be a 22+ ppg scorer in this league. He and the starters struggled on D, surrendering 75 points and 42 rebounds to the Bulls’ starters. Lauri Markennen looked especially sharp from deep where he was 4-7 while Wayne Seldon (who I’ve always liked in Summer leagues), scored 15 on just eight shots.
This game was a back and forth affair throughout, with the teams trading mini runs, and cringeworthy stretches of frenetic yet incompetent basketball, that made my neck strain like I was watching a tennis match. Still, the ball was humming at times for Cleveland who scored 39 field goals on 26 assists, and it was punctuated by the stellar play of Alec Burks, who was the Cavs most consistent defender (and played down the stretch over Clarkson). Burks went 18-7-8 with just two turnovers and oh, a game-winning shot. I hope for his sake and our sake that this stretch of good play gets him moved to a team that could use a 3-position guard/wing. I’ve been super impressed with him, and hoping he’s over the injury bug.
Not so good were the starting point guards for both squads. Sexton was 3-10, and had consistent bouts of “I gotta get mine.” Choosing to go on crazy drives or hijack the offense to put up that 20-footer that might destroy my TV before season’s end. But the truly groanworthy was Sexton coming out of a timeout and then dribbling the ball off his foot to set up an Lauri Markennan and-1 at the 5:30 mark of the fourth. Delly came in 45 seconds later.
I tweeted after that Larry Drew was inserting Sexton (the tanking GOAT) to preserve the loss. It was so apparent that Chicago had zero respect for him in the fourth. After the Cavs went up eight when Clarkson hit a tricky stepback, Nance fed Zizic for a layup on the prettiest play of the game, and then JC fed Adel for a trey, Chicago called a TO. When they came out, they tilted their entire defense away from Sexton to double team Clarkson at the wing: a tactic that resulted in a three minute scoreless drought and let the Bulls get back in it.
Thank God Drew put Delly back in, and that Kris Dunn (2-8 on the game) and Zach LaVine (17-12-2) are anti-clutch. LaVine answered with his own dribbling turnover in crunch time. Dunn missed a layup that would’ve put Chicago up one after Burks’ bucket, and then LaVine ignored a WIDE OPEN Wayne Seldon on an inbound play seemingly designed to get Seldon the ball, as Zach iso-jacked up a brick against Delly as the buzzer sounded to preserve the Cavs’ victory.
I say thank God because I hate rooting for losses. It goes against every fiber of my being. I find the whole concept of two teams trying and not trying to outdo each other to be crappier to be utter comedy. Yes, the team with the worse record can finish no worse than fifth (as opposed to sixth), but trying to lose destroys our souls and misses the entire point of athletic competition. Nice win, coach Drew.