Cavaliers veterans/youth stop young Bulls 117-111
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - How do you eat an elephant?
“One bite at a time,” according to Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein.
Equipped with several first- and second-year players on the team, the Cavaliers have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. But as life in the Association goes, opposing teams won’t be going easy on the young Cavs.
As is the case with most things in life, practice ultimately improves performance. But what do you do when practice time is as limited as the last few costumes left in the store on Halloween eve? With merely a day or two granted between most games, official practices for the Cavaliers are a commodity.
“You can do anything you want, you can’t do everything you want,” Beilein said about the challenge of improving the team with so little practice. “You got to pick the things that are really important in games. As we gradually go, we will gradually get a library of things that we can do everyday.”
It’s safe to say the Cavs are learning on the fly under their first-year head coach. On Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls, the Cavs continued to show the heart of young lions, improving to 2-2 this season with a 117-111 victory over the Bulls in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“We’re trying to get that great balance between when it’s time we just gotta play and when we have to execute a play,” Beilein said. “We don’t want robots, but we just don’t want guys just playing basketball and not being basketball players. We have several young guys that are still learning the difference.”
Included in those “young guys” are rookie point guard Darius Garland and second-year shooting guard Collin Sexton, who both occupy spots in the starting lineup. Garland and Sexton didn’t have the greatest of games on Wednesday, but both were on the floor in the crucial minutes down the stretch and made big plays.
The Cavs trailed at the end of each of the first three quarters, but found themselves with a slim 106-104 lead with a little more than a minute to play. With 2:09 remaining in regulation, Garland converted a crafty layup that gave Cleveland a four-point lead.
After a Kevin Love jumper maintained the four-point advantage with 53 seconds to play, Tristan Thompson blocked a Wendell Carter dunk attempt and the Cavs secured the rebound. On the ensuing possession, Sexton took flight for a vicious dunk over Carter that will surely be a poster on some Young Bull fan’s wall. And while the younger Cavs made some key plays in the waning moments, it was Thompson who was the workhorse for Cleveland again on Wednesday.
Thompson entered Wednesday’s game against Chicago leading the Cavs in scoring at 19.3 points per game, while also contributing 12.3 rebounds per night. His standout play earned him three double-doubles in Cleveland’s first three games this season, and his fourth straight double-double came in another superb performance against Chicago.
Thompson totaled a team-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocks against Chicago. His frontcourt mate, Love, put in a workman’s 17 points and 20 rebounds, the most rebounds he has ever had as a member of the Cavaliers.
While Love and Thompson likely don’t need as much practice as the younger players on the team, they too are new to Beilein’s system.
“I used to spend so much time preparing for every practice,” Beilein said. “All those things were as tough as a game on a coach’s body and now, I’m watching film and I exercise on the side. We couldn’t do much yesterday (in practice), so you’re walking guys through things and then you show some video and you just try to polish up a few things.
“I’m getting used to that rhythm again of we got to get better in games, we can’t possibly get better in practice as much like we probably did during the preseason, there’s just not time for their bodies to withstand that.”
Four Bulls had at least 15 points against Cleveland, but the Cavs ultimately moved to 2-0 at home this season.
“The goal always is to win at home and even when you don’t win at home, people walk away saying ‘you know what, I like this team, they’re playing hard, they’re playing smart. They didn’t win that game but I’ll come back again’,” Beilein said.
POSTED 10/30/2019 22:10