Dribbles: Change Under Bickerstaff Clear As Cavs Cruise To Win

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' wire-to-wire 108-94 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

1. When J.B. Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein after the All-Star break, it was clear the players started to reflect on the season and began to ask themselves some hard questions.

2. Namely, some Cavs asked themselves what they could do better. Second-year guard and this year's leading scorer Collin Sexton was among them.

3. Sexton said he asked himself the following: "Was I as coachable as I could have been? Could I receive information and criticism better? Basically, I said, 'Let me step back and survey.' I had to look myself in the mirror."

4. Sexton finished with a game-high 28 points Wednesday. He was among those who exemplified what appears to be a new approach and new energy with this team, now 3-1 under its new coach.

5. Bickerstaff doesn't try to take all of the credit. Beilein certainly doesn't deserve all of the blame for what went wrong. And the Cavs certainly have had some help from the schedule, as well as some key injuries to opponents -- as Ben Simmons (back) was already out for the 76ers and Joel Embiid exited in the first quarter with a sprained shoulder.

6. Still, there is something very different about these Cavs right now.

7. Bickstaff on that very idea: "I think there's been a concerted effort to a man to go out and get after it a little bit harder. There is an energy that's building, and you don't want to be the one guy that's not participating in it."

8. Again, the Cavs (17-41) never trailed. Again, this was team-wide effort in every sense, as everyone got in on the act at least in some small way.

9. More Bickerstaff: "You see the leadership. You see the young guys. They're pushing one another. They're holding each other accountable. They're having real conversations to fix problems, and the environment and the culture we're creating is growing." 

10. As an aside, the Cavs were without starting center Andre Drummond and reserve wing Dante Exum. Drummond was experiencing a calf issue over the weekend, and the injury tightened up on him Wednesday. Exum sprained his left ankle Monday.

11. Tristan Thompson returned to his starting role, filling in for Drummond and scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds. Larry Nance Jr. scored 13 with a game-high 15 boards. Kevin Love also scored 13, and Matthew Dellavedova (remember him?) added 12, and on 5-of-5 shooting no less. Darius Garland also had 12 points.

12. That is what's known as balance. It's the kind the Cavs have experienced only every so often this season. Lately, though, things are much more fluid.

13. More Sexton: "We're playing together and we're playing for each other, on both ends. Not just on offense. On the defensive end, we're scrambling a lot more and playing hard. We're always in our rotations and playing for one another."

14. Added Nance: "It all comes back to unselfishness. I mean, even at the end there, Collin had 28 and needed two points to get to 30. But instead of going up for the layup, he dropped it off to me and let me finish it. It might seem trivial, but it goes a long way."

15. Meanwhile, the Sixers (36-23) are starting to resemble a team that's in dire straights. Or at least, a team that may once again fail to live up to some lofty goals.

16. Simmons is expected to miss at least two weeks with a nerve issue in his lower back. Embiid is scheduled for MRI on Thursday, so there's no telling when he'll return or how effective he'll be. Those just happen to be their two best players.

17. Sixers coach Brett Brown: "That's why you try to accumulate depth and talent. With the group that we had (Wednesday), we just didn't get it done."

18. As it stands, Philly is a half-game behind Miami for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with just more than 20 games to go.

19. Granted, it's a lot better to be in the 76ers' spot than where the Cavs are today. There is no doubting that. But the Cavs have nowhere to go but up. They then can try to figure out things again after the season. Right now, all of that suddenly looks a little more promising.

20. Next up: The Cavs hit the road for the final matchup of the season with Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. It will be a nice test against an opponent with a dynamic young core.

Comments (1)

This is what we had hoped for. It is refreshing.