Monday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers losing streak extended to four games after losing to the Brooklyn Nets, 117-112. Injuries leading to scarce depth continue to haunt the Cavaliers in every way. Cleveland managed to hang with the star-studded Nets well into the fourth quarter. As usual, the Cavs fought and played with tremendous effort yet again, however, it just wasn’t enough. Fatigue and a lack of depth are perhaps what resulted in the close loss.
Cavaliers’ Thin Roster has Bench Problems
Long-term injuries are major problems for the Cavs right now, but the addition of injuries to key role players is only making matters worse. Collin Sexton is of course out for the remainder of the season, and Evan Mobley will miss weeks of action. Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens continue to miss games with their injuries, hurting Cleveland’s bench. On the other hand, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen — two season-long starters — did return vs. Brooklyn. Allen (20 points & 15 rebounds) and Markkanen (22 points & eight rebounds) did not skip a beat in their much-needed return. Add Darius Garland‘s 24 points, 11 assists and +13, and the Cavs had very good production from three starters. Isaac Okoro, who has struggled offensively this season, even contributed 15 points shooting 3/7 from three-point land. The bench is what truly cost the Wine and Gold in the end.
Cleveland’s bench totaled only 24 points, with all production coming from Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Among the four Cavs to come off the bench, not one had a positive plus/minus. Both Osman and Stevens are desperately needed, primarily Osman. When the roster is already missing two starters in Sexton and Mobley, missing two bench players makes creating good bench rotations extremely difficult. Mediocre bench play led to all starters playing 30+ minutes, and the sixth man Rubio playing nearly 30 minutes. That is not ideal, especially against a loaded team like the Nets.
The Loss to Brooklyn is still Encouraging
Not all was bad, the Cavaliers still made this a competitive game. The fact the Cavs scored over 110 points without so many vital pieces is certainly encouraging — this was the first time they reached 100 points since Sexton’s injury. Allen just missed several games and Markkanen missed nine straight due to NBA’s health and safety protocol. Yet, both big men looked to be in mid-season form against a great team. Also, Okoro bringing good offensive production is a very welcomed sight. Garland is becoming aggressive, just like he needs to, but 27 shot attempts for the third-year guard could be a tad too much.
Overall, the Cavs’ season goals are still obtainable in the long run. Cleveland is only 18 games into the year and still sits at .500 despite all the adversity thrown at them. If this effort and competitive spirit continue, the Cavaliers will break this losing streak sooner rather than later. The red-hot Phoenix Suns on their 12-game winning streak are the next opponent on Wednesday, so that will be a tough challenge ahead. But the 4-14 Orlando Magic awaits Cleveland for a Friday matchup; this is a game the Cavs can and should win even in their current situation. The Cavaliers will end this losing streak as they continue to fight and will go on a winning streak when the roster gets healthy enough. Considering all of the obstacles 18 games into the season, the Cavs are still showing much improvement in their rebuild.
Featured image courtesy of Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
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