Coach Beilein Contemplates Adjusting Cavaliers' Early Approach

Sam Amico

John Beilein entered the season saying he didn't want to change the starting lineup, but sometimes even the best intentions go awry. 

So the Cavaliers coach selected three new starters in the second half of Wednesday's loss at Miami, and he may have at least one newbie for Friday's game at Dallas (8:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

“We’re going to talk about that,” Beilein told reporters after the 124-100 loss to the Heat. “It could happen. Who knows what it will be? If the change comes, you'll know it. As soon as they announce the starting lineups, you'll know.”

In other words, don't ask what the lineup change will be, or if there even will be one at all.

Beilein and the Cavs (4-10) aren't nearly as concerned with the starters as they are with the final outcome. More specifically, they just want a win, baby.

They have lost five straight and trailed by at least 26 points in each of the last four. Clearly, the competitive spirit that resulted in the Cavs giving themselves a chance has taken a nosedive.

Worse, a road game against the Mavericks and young star Luka Doncic isn't exactly considered a wonder drug for a team's breaking spirit. 

Against the Heat, Matthew Dellavadova, Jordan Clarkson and rookie Kevin Porter Jr. joined big men Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. to start the third quarter. Delly and Clarkson replaced Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland in the backcourt, and Porter replaced Cedi Osman at small forward.

“It was to try to get back in the game,” Beilein said of the changes. “That’s like four straight games we were way down -- 13 down -- at the end of the first quarter."

Beilein coached NCAA basketball for more than three decades and he put all of his time in college to good use. 

"Do the math on that and it’s a 52-point loss," he said. "We couldn’t keep going that way. They scored around four points per minute in the second quarter and then maybe two points per minute."

Beilein contended the Cavs "were moving the ball better" after the lineup change. That would be hard to argue, considering Sexton is the starting point guard and finished with zero assists. He compiled just one in each of the two games before that.

In today's NBA, most guards compile two assists in a game by accident. Sexton has two in three games.

On the upside, he can often create shots when the team is desperate for some. Goodness knows, the Cavs have struggled to get even decent looks lately.

So perhaps a change at point is not what's on the way.

The best guess may be at small forward, where Osman stumbled and bumbled during the losing streak. In the past five games, he's scored more than five points just once -- finishing with more turnovers (two) than field goals (one) against the Heat.

But Osman alone shouldn't shoulder the entire blame for the Cavs' issues. It's been a team-wide effort in every sense.

So a change to the starting lineup? Yeah, that may be a shot worth taking.

"We are getting off to such slow starts that it might need to happen," Love told the media. "That's up to the coaching staff. I think it's just about finding different lineups that work overall."

Something, anything that works. For now, it's the Cavs' primary mission.


Love, Nance and Tristan Thompson are all a go for Friday. Love missed a game with a lower back bruise and Nance missed two with a sprained thumb. Thompson was a scratch vs. the Heat to rest. ... Cavs guard Brandon Knight missed the Heat game with a sprained ankle. He is listed as probable for Friday. ... The Cavs have assigned two-way power forward Tyler Cook to the Canton Charge of the G League. The Charge are 4-1.