Cleveland- While most of America was watching the College Football Playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks played a basketball game. The Hawks and Cavaliers came into Saturday night’s match-up with two of the worst records in the NBA. After the Hawks 111-108 victory,Cavs coach Larry Drew was pleased with his teams effort. ”We are going to keep fighting,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. ”I don’t think we put ourselves in a position for it to be a better result at the end of the game and we just didn’t make plays down the stretch and missed some free throws.”
Cedi Osman lead the Cavaliers with 22 points, who came out aggressive from the opening tip and maintained that energy throughout the night. Osman has turned a corner offensively the last few games, as he continues to find his spots in NBA games. The second year Turkish national team player really seems to be at his best when he his able to attack the basket down hill. Saturday night Osman finished 8-12 from the floor, including 2-4 from beyond the arc, also grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Osman was not the only Cavs starter who came ready to play in Atlanta, as Larry Nance Jr and Collin Sexton each scored 18 points. Nance Jr has been a recent tear of his own lately with Tristan Thompson recovering. During the month of December Nance Jr has become of the Cavaliers best players, averaging 11.4 points to go with 9 rebounds in 16 games. Saturday night Nance Jr chipped in 18 points, 15 rebounds and a team high 7 assists.
Rookie Collin Sexton on the other hand was playing in front of his hometown for the first time in nearly two years. ”It felt good playing in front of my hometown just because I haven’t played in front of them in almost two years, so it felt real good to get out there and play. I had my family and friends here, old coaches, really everybody. I had a huge crowd here tonight, so that was really fun to play in front of them. I just wish we could have gotten the win.”
The Rook finished with 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting, adding six assists and three rebounds against fellow Rookie Trae Young.
The Cavaliers played a Hawks team that has now won five out of their last six games, as the mixture of youth and experience is meshing well lately. NBA journeyman Vince Carter tied rookie Trae Young with 21 points to lead the (11-24) Hawks. Carter’s nostalgic performance was his highest scoring output of the season, when asked about turning back the clock after the game Carter modestly said, ”More than anything, I wanted to bring the energy,” Carter said. ”I’m not the youngest guy, but I want to play the hardest.”
Gave themselves a chance
Despite trailing by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, the Cavs were able to tie things up at 106 late in the game, thanks to a Sexton free throw. The Hawks regained the lead shortly after thanks to a John Collins putback of his own miss. While Cleveland had a chance to tie things up on their next possession, Alec Burks through an errant inbound pass to Nance Jr that was stolen by Justin Anderson.
The steal all but sealed this one up for Atlanta, as Cedi Osman recalled that play after the game. ”We just didn’t set our screens, and they did a good job of denying us,” Osman said. ”Everything just happened really fast, and we lost the ball, but that was just another of our simple mistakes.”
Simple mistakes have haunted the Cavaliers all season long, losers of six straight now, Cleveland has a few days to regroup before the calendar flips to 2019. Next up for the Cavaliers is a four game home-stand starting next Wednesday. The Cavs will welcome Miami, Indiana, Utah and New Orleans to Cleveland before heading out on a West Coast road trip .