Cavaliers win second straight, hanging on to beat Wizards 116-113
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - With the NBA trade deadline roughly a week away, rumors have begun to circulate around the league about players potentially on the move. There will undoubtedly be players moving to new cities during the next week, but whether some of the league’s biggest stars will be changing teams before next Thursday’s deadline remains to be seen. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, the team isn’t expected to be a major player during the caged trading frenzy.

It’s not as if the Cavs don’t have desirable assets to make a trade. Their league-worst record is trending toward a top 3 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and could return a superstar like Duke freshman Zion Williamson. Meanwhile, All-Star power forward Kevin Love could certainly help a contender if he’s able to return fully healthy from left foot surgery. The Cavs, though, would have to be blown away with an offer to move Love.

Love, who has played in just four games this season, didn’t play in the Cavs’ home meeting with the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. Cleveland didn’t need him on Tuesday, though, as the Cavs nearly choked away a 116-113 victory over the Wizards in Quicken Loans Arena. The win was Cleveland’s second straight, something they’ve accomplished only one other time this season.

“I don’t think we’re doing much of anything different,” Cavs head coach Larry Drew said. “I think we’re doing some things better. Offensively, I think we’re doing a much, much better job in sharing the ball and moving the ball around.”

Despite being a heavy underdog entering the game, the Cavs controlled the contest against Washington throughout. They took a 53-47 lead into halftime and punished the Wizards in the third quarter. Cavs forward Cedi Osman was the star of the night and got the Cavs’ hot second half started with a three-pointer to open the third quarter. The bucket put Cleveland up 56-47, but the Cavs run had only begun.

By the time Osman converted a layup with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter, Cleveland had taken an 84-63 lead, shocking many who expected the game play out differently. The Cavs took an 88-69 lead into the fourth quarter, and when Jordan Clarkson sank a three-pointer to open the quarter that put Cleveland up 91-69, the game was essentially over. The Cavs, though, nearly choked the game away in the final minute, letting the Wizards claw back within a single possession with 13 seconds to play. Osman, though, stripped Wizards guard Troy Brown Jr. to end the game.

“We’ve never been in that position many times this year,” Drew said of having the 25-point lead over Washington. “That was kind of new to us, and what we showed was we right now don’t know how to play with a lead like that.”

Osman finished with 26 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes, keeping up his strong play of late. In his last six games, Osman is averaging 20.2 points per game.

“A lot of people seem to forget that he didn’t play much last year, and this is something new for him, being a starter and playing consistent minutes,” Drew said. “I think the next step for him is just to put together strings of consistency as far as games are concerned on both ends.”

Last season, Osman played in 61 games and averaged just 11 minutes while learning from veterans on a championship contender. He played more than eight minutes in only one postseason game last year, as the Cavs rookie was mostly buried at the end of the bench. In his second year this season, Osman is a starter for the Cavs and is averaging almost 32 minutes per game.

Against Washington, Clarkson chipped-in a team-high 28 points and five rebounds, while Ante Zizic recorded his second double-double of his career with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Larry Nance Jr. also totaled a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

As the trade deadline nears, there’s still the curious case of J.R. Smith, who has not been with the team after appearing in just 11 games this season. The Cavs will attempt to move him before the deadline, but will have trouble doing so considering Smith’s play during the last three seasons. If the Cavs are unable to trade him, Smith could look to negotiate a buyout on the remainder of his contract that runs into 2020.  

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​POSTED 01/29/2019 22:10
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