Grit Returns, Clarkson and Cavaliers Bounce Blazers to Snap Skid
CLEVELAND -- It was an ugly game, a game against a struggling opponent, a game that won't ever be shown on NBA TV's popular "Hardwood Classics" series.
For the Cavaliers, it was also a night that followed a six-game losing streak, a night with Kevin Love on the bench in street clothes for the second time in a week.
But this is a bottom-line industry and there is but one thing that matters. You just gotta win.
Final score: Cavaliers 110, Portland 104 on Saturday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Along with all of the above, it was night everyone got to see why Beilein refers to reserve guard Jordan Clarkson (28 points) as "The Wolf." And a night Tristan Thompson (25 points, nine rebounds) broke out of his mini-slump to fight for position and throw down some dunks.
“I was hitting. They kept going to me,” Clarkson said. “I was moving a lot as well, setting screens for people, just trying to find a way to get open."
Clarkson got open. His teammates found him. He went 6-of-6 shooting on 3-pointers.
Near the end of the third quarter, the Cavs had allowed a double-digit lead to dwindle to four. So Beilein turned to The Wolf. And Clarkson buried a three at the third-quarter buzzer to put the Cavs back up by seven. It was his best night of the season.
Afterward, Beilein mentioned Clarkson's scoring, but seem more impressed with Clarkson's desire to keep the ball moving.
It was just that kind of night -- a night when the Cavs (5-11) resembled the team that showed a fighting spirit and desire to do things the right way during the season's first month. Then came lots of tough games, many on the road, against some pretty formidable competition.
It was almost as if the Cavs became worn down. It was almost as if they were tapping out of an MMA fight.
On Friday, they lost by 42 (at Dallas). They arrived back in Cleveland about 2:30 a.m., got to bed probably an hour later. Yet their energy against the Trail Blazers was as good as it's been all season, even if the execution was lacking at times.
"I didn't see any fatigue," Beilein said. "We played through some of (their runs). It's a happy locker room right now. We just gotta stick together."
Collin Sexton added 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Larry Nance Jr. filled in admirably for Love, compiling 11 points and 12 important rebounds. Cedi Osman was also active, passing for a team-high five assists and grabbing 12 boards as well.
The defense was also better than it's been during the losing streak, as the Cavs trailed by at least 21 points in the first half in each of the previous five games. This time, they led at halftime.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers (5-12) are a little bit of a mess these days, having lost four straight.
They advanced to the Western Conference finals last season, but are having trouble finding their footing lately. A couple defections in free agency likely had something to do with that. So too have several key injuries.
They were led by Damian Lillard (23 points), who looked to still be bothered by the back spasms that caused him to miss the previous two games. Canton GlenOak product C.J. McCollum scored 20, and newcomer Carmelo Anthony had 11, but was a miserable 0-of-8 on threes.
This was the first of a six-game homestand for the Cavs. All but one opponent in this stretch has a losing record. Maybe this was a way for them to get something good started again.