The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to the future, but don’t expect them to gaze past the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Cleveland hopes to ride the momentum of its 100-98 win against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night while taking advantage of a Los Angeles team that burnt plenty of steam in a 124-120 road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
The victory by Cleveland was highlighted by the play of youngsters Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, three players the Cavaliers hope will bring the franchise back to a championship level. Allen and Sexton are 22, and Garland just turned 21.
“The thing I think is great is you watch them work together, you watch them play together, and they don’t have to play on separate islands in isolation,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “They can play together. That’s where there’s positive signs of what can come.”
Allen replaced Andre Drummond (lower back) in the starting lineup on Monday and produced 23 points and 18 rebounds in his first start since he was acquired from the Nets in the James Harden deal in mid-January.
Garland had 19 points and 11 assists against Minnesota, his first double-double since missing eight games last month with a shoulder injury. Sexton produced 26 points in 41 minutes.
“Defenses have their hands full,” Bickerstaff said. “Darius has the ability to make all the shots in the pick-and-roll, and Jarrett has the ability to vertically space and catch the ball in the pocket and make moves and make outlet passes.”
The Clippers faced their first test against a top opponent since early in the season when they squared off with the Nets on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George couldn’t quite match up against Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as the Clippers took only their second loss in the past 12 games.
Los Angeles committed just eight turnovers while the Nets gave the ball away 17 times, and the Clippers took 20 more shots.
“Usually in a game like that, we win,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
The Clippers are 3-0 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season, and it’s expected they’ll bring back their same starting lineup against the Cavaliers.
Leonard, who has appeared in 18 of 22 games this season, played 39 minutes against the Nets.
George, who has appeared in 19 games this season, played 36 minutes against Brooklyn.
The Clippers have been without Patrick Beverley the first five games of their road trip and don’t figure to have him back for the finale against the Cavaliers. Beverley is nursing a sore right knee.
“One thing for sure is, we missed Patrick Beverley (against the Nets),” Clippers forward Nicolas Batum said. “He would’ve been huge for us (Tuesday) night. So Pat, come back please.”
Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. won’t play against the Clippers due to a right wrist injury that kept him out Monday.
Bickerstaff is perfectly comfortable giving his young players more game experience, especially against a team like the Clippers.
“Trust comes from actions,” he said. “To be able to have these moments, have the experience, have those actions, that’s where the trust is built and that’s how you get better. The more experience they get together, the more opportunities they get together, I think it’s gonna do nothing but get better and better.”
–Field Level Media