Crippled and depleted Cavaliers stop Knicks 113-106 
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Injuries, absences and departures have crippled the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, and the circumstances have led to more failure than flourishing.

All-Star power forward Kevin Love has played in just four games this season and underwent surgery on his left foot last month. J.R. Smith hasn’t been with the team since mid-November due to personal reasons, while the franchise fired Tyronn Lue, who led the Cavs as head coach to the 2016 NBA title, six games into the season. Throw in the trading of veterans George Hill and Kyle Korver within the last month, and it’s understandable that the Cavs are having trouble finding wins.

The latest integral piece to the Cavaliers’ success to fall is Tristan Thompson, who will miss the next 2-4 weeks after spraining his foot against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

“Well, it’s tough having to deal with injuries,” Cavs interim head coach Larry Drew said. “Certainly, you like to go into every season with a full squad. When you lose guys, particularly main guys early, you have to start to kind of shuffle some things around.

“That was unfortunate for us with Kevin and not being able to start the season with a good flow because he has not played and we haven’t had guys all together. And then you lose other guys as the season progresses, but it’s just a part it, you have to deal with. It makes it tough, but I always say you just have to play the hand that’s dealt to you, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.

“It’s unfortunate we lose Tristan after the last game, so we’ll continue what we’ve been doing all year long is just shuffling guys and trying to find right mixtures, get some younger guys playing time until we can get all of our bodies back.”

Hosting the New York Knicks on Wednesday night without their starting frontcourt, the Cavs battled their way to a 113-106 victory in Quicken Loans Arena.

Amidst all the changes, Cavs point guard Collin Sexton has been poised. In 17 starts entering Wednesday, sexton had scored in double-figures in each game, averaging 18.6 points, including 49 percent from beyond the arc. Against New York in his 18th start on Thursday, Sexton finished with 19 points, but it was the Cavs newly acquired backup point guard that sparked the team in the first half.

When backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova entered his first game back in Cleveland, the Cavs had a slim 21-18 lead. Delly immediately knocked down a three-pointer to put the Cavs up six, and his presence ignited the Cleveland to take a 39-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. The ignition, though, didn’t stop at the end of the first.

By the time Dellavedova drained his third three-pointer of the first half with 8:56 remaining in the second quarter, the Cavs had taken a 46-29 lead — and all of this in just eight Delly minutes. Cleveland took a 65-54 lead into halftime, but the Knicks completely turned the game around after coming out of the locker room.

The Knicks opened the second half with a 13-2 run, capped by a Noah Vonleh hook shot that tied the game at 67. The Cavs and Knicks sat tied at 86 heading into the fourth quarter, and the game remained close down the stretch.

The Cavs had a 105-99 lead after a Jordan Clarkson floater with 2:26 to play, but the Knicks immediately put together a 7-0 run, capped by a Kevin Knox three-pointer and thunderous dunk in traffic that put New York up 106-105 with 32 seconds to play. The Cavs had the ball, though, and went to Rodney Hood, who created for a floater in traffic that found the bottom of the net and gave Cleveland a 107-106 lead with 23 seconds showing.

On the ensuing possession, New York point guard Emmanuel Mudiay missed a jumper that would have taken the lead. Cedi Osman grabbed the rebound, was fouled and converted both free throws. The Knicks had one last opportunity, but threw the ball away on the inbounds. Delly drained the icing free throws.

Clarkson was the star of the night for the Cavs, finishing with a team-high 28 points and five rebounds. Hood contributed 23 points and five rebounds.

With Thompson out of the lineup, Dellavedova is the only active Cavs player that has played significant minutes in a championship setting. With his first bucket on Wednesday, Dellavedova reached 2,000 points in his career, a remarkable feat for an undrafted player. He finished with a season-high 13 points, four rebounds and three assists against New York.

“Tristan has been a little bit more vocal than I’ve seen him in the past and certainly, he’s burdened some of that leadership responsibility,” Drew said. “Now that he’s out, we’re going to have to have somebody step up. Delly, he fits the bill, a veteran.

“He’s been in this league a while. He knows this team. He’s a guy that players respect, they look up to. Certainly, I’m going to expect him to take on some leadership role in Tristan’s absence, particularly for our young guys…When you lose a player, other players have to step up in all different areas. Delly, already being the vocal guy that he is, I’m sure he’s going to step up and be a lot more vocal now that TT is out until we get him back.”

Channing Frye, who started in place of Thompson, didn’t score in 15 minutes of play. Larry Nance Jr. totaled three points, a team-high 11 rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

“All of our big guys have to raise their level of play,” Drew said. “Tristan is a warrior. He’s a guy that sets the tone for us, particularly on the glass.

“We’re gonna have to have some guys that step up. We’re gonna have to play with a level of energy, a level of toughness. It’s not just going to be Larry (Nance), it’s got to be all of our big guys. We have to really step up our game and try to keep this boat afloat until we get guys back.”

The Cavs host Dellavedova’s former team, the Milwaukee Bucks, on Friday.. 
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​POSTED 12/12/2018 22:16
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