Cavs Hope Early Effort Starts Leading to More than Just Praise

Sam Amico

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Through the first 11 games, the Cavaliers have been keeping things respectable, and surprisingly so, some might say.

For the Cavs, the respectable and surprising parts are nice.

Actually winning?

Yeah. Different story. As you likely know, the Cavs are 4-7 entering Sunday's home game vs. Philadelphia (3 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

It's true, they are facing the same 76ers team they scrapped with just last week on the road. Surely you remember that one. Kevin Love had a good look at a possible winning basket and the Cavs came within about an inch of pulling off a stunner.

It was an honorable effort against an Eastern Conference contender.

And a loss.

Playing hard, putting yourself in position to win ... again, all of that stuff is great for a team with a first-time NBA coach and plenty of youth. That is, provided you don't make a habit of it, and become satisfied with good ol' moral victories and pats on the back.

"You don't want that to happen," coach John Beilein said. "We all feel bad about any loss. For example, if we go back to the last 76ers game, we all learned something -- the coaches, everybody."

Beilein said it was a winnable game, and a win that the Cavs let get away. They failed to score after holding a 97-92 lead with three minutes to go.

Then again, it's not like Beilein is suddenly going to stop starting the young backcourt of second-year man Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland. Starting small forward Cedi Osman is in his third season and rookie wing Kevin Porter Jr. is one of the first men off the bench.

Those players are all learning the NBA and what it takes to win in the NBA. The only way to do that is usually courtesy of the difficult lessons on the court. Beilein intends to make sure the Cavs keep learning, regardless of the outcomes (and losses).

"It's a tough balance," Beilein said of trying to win while developing players. "We have enough guys that care. It's the little things in close games that are the difference in whether you win it or lose it."

Older veterans such as Love, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson tend to understand that. The younger guys, well, not always.

Love leads the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game, and Sexton is right behind him at 18.4. Sexton indicated he thinks sticking to Beilein's share-the-wealth offense is a good starting point.

"More assists, more togetherness," Sexton said. "We have to make sure we keep moving without the ball and not take steps back, keep getting better. We're going to figure it out."

The Cavs just completed a three-game road swing last week. After Sunday, they go back on the road for three more. It's a tough way to learn how to finish games and win. 

But the Cavs don't want to just keep losing, either. Part of developing players is getting them to experience the brighter side of playing hard.

"Most of our losses have been to very good teams," Beilein said. "We needed to beat one just to give us that confidence. We were in all of them."

As Beilein noted, it often comes down to the little things. Sometimes, it's little things that aren't even entirely in your control. What you're hoping is that all of your effort will lead to a little good fortune.

"It could be a blown official's call, it could be somebody diving on the floor, it could be they miss a pair of foul shots," he said. "That's all you need sometimes ... one of those breakthrough moments to beat the good teams."