Dribbles: Despite Losses, Cavaliers Keeping Focus on Bigger Picture

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 108-106 heartbreaker of a home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.

1. For much of the night, this game was close, but one of those that make you understand why NBA ratings are hurting. 

2. It wasn't a bad game. It wasn't a great game. It was just a regular-season game on a Monday night. In order for the Cavs to generate much interest, they will need to start winning games like this.

3. But things got exciting at the end, as the Cavs fought back from 106-97 deficit with 2:12 to go. Next thing you knew, it was 106-all with 21.5 seconds remaining.

4. As you likely know, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie made a fadeaway to win it with 1.6 seconds left. The Cavs had no timeouts, so they had to inbound it under the Nets' basket (as opposed to the middle of the court). No chance.

5. I will say this: The Cavs locker room was mostly upbeat afterward. Both Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton seemed to take the loss hard, as both were involved in game-altering plays. 

6. Sexton missed a free throw that could've given the Cavs a one-point edge. Turns out it wouldn't have made much difference, since Dinwiddie hit a two-point shot. Osman was the victim of the game-winner, as he was the man trying to defend Dinwiddie.

7. But other than that, the Cavs realized they gave it their all in another game minus the injured Kevin Love, still out with lower back trouble. Love's injury isn't considered serious. He almost played Monday.

8. Anyway, big picture-wise, Larry Nance Jr. (20 points, 13 rebounds) put things in perspective when he said there are no moral victories, "but morale is all right."

9. Translation: The Cavs (5-12) want to always play hard and always want to win. They understand they are about halfway there on the first part. They knew all along there would be a ways to go on the second part.

10. Sexton (18 points) on the loss: "There were a lot of positives tonight. There are a lot of things we can take away from this game. It didn't all go as planned. We didn't make shots, and stuff like that. But that's going to happen. We definitely picked up on the defensive end and continued to fight."

11. We've been saying the same thing after every game, and it will remain true throughout the season. But the Cavs don't want to get too comfortable with losing. 

12. First-time NBA coach John Beilein won't allow it. Beilein has already lost almost twice as many games in one month this season than he did all of last year at Michigan (30-7).

13. That's not to say Beilein is overreacting or even agitated. He clearly understands his purpose here -- which is basically to build a winning culture despite what is destined to be a losing season. He is getting that job done.

14. If anything, Beilein has mostly championed what the Cavs are doing right. "Love the way we executed when we needed to down the stretch," he said. "They just made enough of the right plays to win."

15. He added: "We will grow from it and that's all we can do. You have probably heard that for the thousandth time already now."

16. Jordan Clarkson was brilliant at the end, scoring 16 fourth-quarter points and helping bring the Cavs back to life. He finished with 23. You can read more details in my recap from earlier: Nets' Dinwiddie hits dagger, dooms Cavs.

17. I'm not real sure how the Nets are doing all this without Kyrie Irving. They're 5-1 since he went down with a shoulder injury. He is out for at least their next game at Boston, too.

18. Beilein offered an answer: "You can see why Brooklyn is playing so well right now. They have a great chemistry. They are making the extra pass."

19. That is where Beilein hopes the Cavs get someday, too. Some nights they actually show progress in that department, and this was one of them. Rookie Kevin Porter Jr., sometimes called a selfish player in his one season at USC, finished with a team-high seven assists.

20. Outside of Clarkson and Porter Jr., no one is really fearing the Cavs' offense off the bench. Matthew Dellavedova and Alfonzo McKinnie were the only other reserves who played. But there is no denying that unit has been scrappy.

21. Tristan Thompson (seven points, 10 rebounds) had a fairly quiet game, as did Darius Garland (10 points). But Osman has been coming around offensively, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

22. Osman on why he's looking more comfortable lately: "I'd say more touches. It gives me a comfort level to make plays. Not only for myself, but for my teammates."

23. Next up: The Cavs host the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. It will be the Magic's first of two visits to Cleveland within nine days (Friday, Dec. 6 is the next).

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