Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Griz: ‘This one was on us tonight’

For most of this young NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have played hard and played together, which has helped this team be an early-season surprise in the NBA despite all of the injuries. 

On Monday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavaliers, who returned home after a six-game road trip to battle the Grizzlies, did not follow their recipe for success, which is playing hard and playing together, and because of that, according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland(5-6) fell to Memphis(4-6) 101-91.

Memphis’ Dillon Brooks had a game-high 21 points, while Andre Drummond had his eleventh-straight double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland.

“To be honest, I thought we lacked for large periods of the game, the two things that matter to us most,” Bickerstaff said. “Our competitiveness, our selflessness; tonight was the first sign that I saw, more than not, we were lacking in those areas.”

These two teams played last Thursday night in Memphis, where the Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies 94-90.

Again, Cleveland was without seven players, including their leading-scorer Collin Sexton, who Bickerstaff did not know would be unavailable until right before tip-off. Sexton has missed three games due to a sprained ankle.

With the injuries, players are in spots that they are not used to playing, which makes executing very hard. Cleveland finished the game with 21 turnovers. 

“You look at the entirety of the game,” Bickerstaff said. “You finish the game with 21 turnovers. It’s hard to survive that, especially playing low possession games. Again, asking guys who are out of position to get us in positions and get us organized in a pressure-filled fourth quarter isn’t the easiest thing.” 

Cleveland gave up 64 points in the paint against Memphis, and Bickerstaff believes that comes back to the lack of selflessness on the defensive end. In the end, Bickerstaff believes the loss was on the team.

“That’s(64 points in the paints) apart of the selflessness on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “There was a lot of me just guarding my man. We protect the paint with not just one guy. Our goal is to protect the paint with multiple bodies so teams don’t get in there. They scored 64 points in our paint. You add the free throws(16 points), and 80 of their points came from our paint and free throw line. Throw in, you turn the ball over 21 times; that’s dang-near impossible to overcome…

“This one was on us tonight.”

With the injuries, many things have to go right for the Cavaliers to win games, and based on the results, it was clear Cleveland did not play the right way against Memphis. Now, they regroup and see if they can turn it around against the Jazz on Wednesday night.

 

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘I feel really good about this team’

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in the pregame that he wanted his team to make Saturday’s game against Milwaukee as ugly as possible, and they did that, but it was not ugly enough as the Cavaliers(5-5) would end their six-game road trip by losing to the Bucks(6-4) 100-90.

Without Giannis Antetokoumpo(back spasms), the Bucks’ Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with a game-high 27 points. For the Cavs, Andre Drummond had a monster game with 26 points and 24 rebounds, and Damyean Dotson added 21 points.

Cleveland was down seven players again, including their top two scorers, Collin Sexton(ankle) and Darius Garland(shoulder). Even in a loss, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was proud of his team’s performance.

“They gave us what they had tonight,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “Asking guys to play heavy minutes, carry heavy burdens, and they scrapped, and they competed. We just couldn’t manufacture enough points. Again, I thought our defense was solid. We just struggled to manufacture some points and find some easy buckets tonight…

“I can’t say enough about what these guys are doing. They’re many men down, and they haven’t used it as an excuse. They just continue to go out and scrap. They continued to go out and fight, came up short tonight, but I’m proud of their effort and the way they fought.”

Cleveland ended their six-game road trip at 2-4, which is not a bad road trip when you consider all the injuries. As they prepare to head back to Cleveland on Monday to battle the Grizzles, Bickerstaff is happy with his team after ten games. 

“I feel really good about this team, to be honest with you,” he said. “The things that we say matter most to us, our guys have continued to show. They are competitive; they are selfless, they are together… We continue to play this way; we get healthy; we’re going to be a hard out every night.”

Hopefully, this team can get healthy. To Bickerstaff’s credit, this team does play hard every night, and Bickerstaff is right; if they continue to play hard and get healthy, Cleveland will be a hard out every night for any team in the NBA.

Nance Jr. on Okoro: ‘He’s a winner’

The Cleveland Cavaliers were down another man on Thursday night on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies, and this time, it was their leading scorer. Collin Sexton, who is averaging 25.1 PPG this season, was out against the Grizzlies due to a sprained ankle. 

However, it’s next man up in Cleveland, and the men up stepped up in a big way for the Cavs. Andre Drummond got his usual double-double(ninth-straight) with 22 points and 10 rebounds, Larry Nance was 7-7 from the field and finished with 18 points, and Cedi Osman chipped in with 16 points as the Cavaliers(5-4) defeated the Grizzlies 94-90. 

Cleveland was missing seven players, including Sexton, Kevin Love, and Darius Garland(second-leading scorer). With all that firepower out, Drummond knew the Cavaliers had to grind it out to get the victory.

“We just kept fighting,” Drummond said. “We knew this was going to be an ugly game. We knew it was going to be a real sloppy one due to some guys being in positions they haven’t been in before. We had fun, and we grinded the game out, and it was a great win for us.”

Late in the game, with the Cavaliers up 91-90, rookie Isaac Okoro made two of the game’s biggest plays. Okoro made a beautiful chase-down block on Tyus Jones, and then he made a beautiful backdoor cut for a dunk to put the Cavs up by three. Okoro finished with eight points and two blocks.

“If it wasn’t the middle of January, early January,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We be talking about that block for a long, long time. It was phenomenal.”

Nance Jr. added about Okoro: “He’s a winner,” Nance Jr. said about Okoro. “The things he does on the court are things you can’t teach. I don’t know whoever taught him how to play basketball, where he learned how to play basketball, but he learned the right way.” 

The Cavaliers have had some nice wins this season, including victories over the Hawks and 76ers, but when you consider all the injuries and had depleted this team was on Thursday night, Cleveland’s win against Memphis was their best win of the season. Now, it’s off to Milwaukee to finish off their six-game road trip against the Bucks.

Cavs’ Drummond: ‘Right now, we are the underdogs’

Maybe, just maybe, the Cleveland Cavaliers are for real. Last night, against the 76ers(2-1), Cleveland continued to surprise as they blew out the Joel Embiid-less Sixers 118-94 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Cavaliers C Andre Drummond had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Collin Sexton added 22.

Cleveland is now 3-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Philadelphia was without Embiid, who missed the game due to back tightness. 

Obviously, many are surprised by the Cavs’ 3-0 start, and according to Drummond, Cleveland is still considered an underdog.

“Right now, we are the underdogs, and guys in the NBA don’t think we’re gonna be a very good team,” Drummond said after the game. “I think thus far these past couple of games we’ve done a great job of really showing we’re here to play each and every night. No matter who’s on the court.”

One of the keys to Cleveland’s success this season is their ability to move the ball. Of the Cavaliers’ 48 made field goals, 31 came off assists last night, led by point guard Darius Garland, who had 14 points and seven assists. 

 “We are just doing a really good job of getting everybody involved from top to bottom,”  Drummond said. “Point guard onto the guys that come in for the starters. We’re doing a great job of being unselfish and really finding the open guy. Guys are taking the open shots and making them.”

Cleveland is buying into everything head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is selling right now. Playing the 76ers was a test, and the Cavaliers aced it. We are only three games in, but Cleveland appears to be a team that will continue to surprise many this season.

Notes:

-Cavaliers F Kevin Love left the game in the second half with a calf injury and is expected to get an MRI on Monday. The 12-year veteran missed the season-opener due to the calf injury

 -Cleveland held the 76ers to 41% from the field and scored 35 PTS off 22 turnovers. This was second straight game they have forced more than 20 turnovers and held an opponent to under 42% from the field.

-Cleveland hosts the Knicks on Tuesday night

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘Our two young guards carried us and put us in a position to win’

After defeating the Hornets at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Thursday, Cavaliers F Larry Nance Jr. said the following:

“We’re not doing what we did the past two years,” Nance Jr. said. “We’re not winning 19 games this year; we’re not winning 20 games this year; we’re not winning 25 games this year. We’re here. We’re a very real team with very real ambitions.”

After defeating the Pistons 128-119 in double OT on the road, the Cavaliers are now 2-0. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the last time the Cavaliers started 2-0 without LeBron James on the roster was 2000-01. So, Nance Jr. could be right; the Cavaliers could be for real. 

It’s clear after two games that the Cavaliers have an electric backcourt in Collin Sexton(game-high 32 points) and Darius Garland(21 points, 11 assists). The two combined for 53 points on Saturday night against Detroit after combining for 49 points against Charlotte in the season-opener. According to ESPN Stat & Info, Sexton joins Kyrie Irving (2016-17) and LeBron James (2006-07) as the only Cavaliers with 25 points in each of the team’s first two games in the last 20 seasons.

“Our two young guards carried us and put us in a position to win,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game.

Sexton and Garland had great games, but this night was about Cavaliers C Andre Drummond, who returned to Detroit for the first time after being dealt to Cleveland last February before the trade deadline. In his return to Detroit, the Pistons former 9th overall pick in 2012 had 23 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks. He became the second player i n Cavaliers’ history to post a stat line of at least 23 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks, joining LeBron James, who accomplished that feat in 2008.

For Drummond, returning to Detroit brought back many memories.

“Being back in this building again, but on the other side, it was a lot of memories that rushed to my head,” Drummond said.

Just like a lot of people, Drummond is excited to see growth out of Sexton and Garland.

“They came back this season more mature,” Drummond said about Sexton and Garland. “They know the game. They have a year or two under their belt to where they know what the NBA is like and what it takes to be a good point guard, a good shooting guard, and they are both growing each and every day. It’s not going to be a perfect game all the time, it’s not going to come overnight, but they’re willing to work, and they’re willing to put the time into becoming great players, and it’s starting to show on the court.”

Obviously, there is a lot of basketball left, but for a team that won only 19 games last season, 2-0 is something to be excited about. However, they will have a big test against the visiting 76ers(2-0) on Sunday, so going 3-0 won’t be easy. But for now, Sexton is excited about the possibilities.

“I’ve been here for the last two seasons,” he said. “We didn’t start off too good, so year three we’re starting off pretty good. I’m excited to pretty much just see what we do.”