Dribbles: Cavaliers Display Poise, Grit In Bickerstaff Debut

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' solid 113-108 road win over the Washington Wizards on Friday.

1. It's only one game, and that's the only place we should put our focus. But there was a certain calmness about the Cavaliers on this night.

2. Not a big surprise, but new Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff is one of the calmest people in the profession. He can be fiery when the need arises, but it seemingly takes a lot for that to happen.

3. None of this is an intended shot at John Beilein. The Cavs were his first failure. He didn't suddenly forget how to coach. He is an excellent coach, actually. And I strongly suspect he will get the opportunity to prove it again, as soon as next season.

4. But yes, there's a difference between coaching college kids and professional athletes. The Cavs are a strange mix of seasoned veterans such as Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and younger guys such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr.

5. Bickerstaff has been around the pro game seemingly for forever. Along with his jobs as an NBA assistant and interim coach, he was raised by a longtime NBA head coach. That would be Bernie Bickerstaff, the Cavs' senior advisor and someone J.B. credits with his decision to come to Cleveland.

6. So while J.B. isn't a splashy hire, perhaps he's better equipped to manage a roster such as the Cavs. I don't know that for certain. This was just one game and this lineup has been riddled with inconsistency. Time will tell. But for one night, the Cavs played with some poise and overcame a hungry opponent that had won five of seven.

7. It looked to be more of the same in the first half, as if the coaching change would mean little. The guards still couldn't defend anyone. The opponent still played smarter. The Cavs still seemed to have little flow.

8. Eventually, though, the Cavs started to increase the intensity. They didn't panic and stayed patient. They went from trailing by 15 with just more than 2:00 left in the first half -- to down by five at halftime.

9. Bickerstaff to reporters: "In the first half, I thought we played hard, we just didn't have a purpose. In the second half, we settled down, played harder and with purpose."

10. Again, a lot of things that usually haunt the Cavs (15-40) continued to show up. They committed a whopping 22 turnovers. They gave up 41 points in the first quarter. But just as they did for the first nine games of the season under Beilein, they played with some grit and fought their way to a win. 

11. Whatever the reason, it was good to see. But yes, let's remember they did this before at Washington -- under Beilein. We will have a better idea of who they really are and what will happen this offseason after the final 27 games.

12. Sexton led the way with 25 points and some determination on defense. Cedi Osman was quietly very good, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first half. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Garland added 15 points, Larry Nance Jr. scored 13, Andre Drummond had 12 points and 12 boards, and Thompson went for 10 and 11, respectively.

13. Mostly, Thompson, Nance and Dante Exum came off the bench to team with Sexton and Garland to go on a run and basically win the game. (Though Osman relived Exum at about the 2:00 mark.) The entire time, Love and Drummond watched from the bench.

14. It should also be noted that Sexton scored 14 of his points in the fourth, and Thompson swatted two critical shots late.

15. Bickerstaff on the fourth-quarter lineup: "They were playing well as a unit. They were pretty much the group that came back and got us the lead, and held on to the lead. I just felt like they should be rewarded."

16. As an aside, Porter was ejected in the third quarter for back-to-back technicals after arguing with an official. He will quickly learn that is not something Bickerstaff will let slide.

17. Overall, it was a good first night, the type of night where the Cavs showed some pride. That's about all the front office, coaching staff and fans want to see. Everyone will accept the results if the effort is there.

18. Bradley Beal led the Wizards (20-34) with a game-high 26 points. But he finished just 9-of-28 from the field and 1-of-10 on 3-pointers.

19. Next up: The Cavs go right back at it Saturday night at Miami. This, of course, will be a much tougher test against a true contender. It will be interesting to see how this unpredictable Cavs team responds.

Comments (2)

Good start for Coach B.

No. 1-2

4th quarter Sexton was real good. I've convinced that the Sexton hate comes from the fact that he is who we got as a result of the Kyrie trade. Sexton needs to judged on his merits. He's young and still growing as a player.