Young Cavaliers playing spoiler, upsetting Pistons 126-119 
   BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - It would be an understatement to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled this season. However, there is a silver lining.

The Cavs entered Monday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons with the third-worst record in the NBA, but the silver lining is that they’ll have a high pick in the NBA Draft with a chance at the ultimate prize — the No. 1 overall pick (Zion Williamson).

The NCAA Tournament begins this week with a slew of prospects the Cavs will get a free look at during their tournament runs. That is, of course, if they haven’t narrowed down their draft board already.

Whoever the Cavaliers select in the draft later this summer, they’ll become part of a young core (barring trade) that includes last year’s lottery pick Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman.

Osman has taken a positive step in his second season, going from 3.9 points per game last season to 13 points per game this season, while also playing 31.9 minutes per game as opposed to 11 minutes per game a season ago. Osman’s low minute total as a rookie was understandable considering he was on a championship contending team, but he’ll have every opportunity to progress even further in the coming years (again, barring trade).

Sexton, who has received his fair share of criticism this season, mostly because of his assist total (2.9 per game), has gotten better as the season has gone on. He’s fourth among all rookies in scoring (15.9 per game), while also shooting 40 percent from the three-point line (second among rookies) and 83.5 percent from the free throw line.

On Monday against the Pistons, Sexton was fantastic once again, scoring 27 points en route to a 126-119 Cavs victory in Quicken Loans Arena.

The Pistons led by as many as 11 points in the first half when point guard Ish Smith sank a three-pointer that gave Detroit a 46-35 lead with 8:35 to play until halftime. The Cavs, though, closed the first half with a 25-15 run to trail 61-60 heading into the half. The close halftime score was indicative of how tight the second half was.

Trailing 114-112 with just under two minutes to play, Sexton drained a three-pointer that regained Cleveland the lead, 115-114, with 1:54 remaining. When Osman sank a trey 30 seconds later, followed by Sexton’s fifth three-pointer of the game with 39 seconds showing, the Cavs took a 121-114 lead and never relinquished it again.

“When you’re winding the season down and obviously, you’re in a situation of basically, you’re playing for pride,” Cavs head coach Larry Drew said. “As I told our guys 25 games ago, 30 games ago, we’re going to play it out until the end. We’re going to play our hardest until the end, and we’re going to compete until the end.”

Sexton was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc on Monday, but he wasn’t the only Cavalier that had a standout game. Osman finished with 21 points, four rebounds and six assists, while five other Cavs also finished with double-figures in scoring.

Wayne Ellington led Detroit with 25 points. Andre Drummond was a monster for the Pistons, totaling 21 points and 21 rebounds.

“Over the years, he’s had some problems at the free throw line, but now that he’s showing that he can make them, it probably leaves him in the game in crunch time situations because he does everything else so, so well,” Drew said. “He’s such a big body, his presence in the middle. He just just clogs everything up and if he’s able to make his free throws, I think that really tops off his game.”

The Cavs will look for their second straight win on Wednesday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks.
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​POSTED 03/18/2019 23:23
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