Cavaliers don’t give coach JB Bickerstaff what he wanted in 113-97 preseason loss to Philadelphia 76ers

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s a good thing it’s only preseason. They don’t look ready for the real thing quite yet.

Playing their second exhibition against the Philadelphia 76ers in five days, the Cavs lost, 113-97, in front of a lively Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse crowd on Monday night.

As is always the case, the final score is meaningless this time of year. How a team plays is what matters.

Is the intensity there? Are players executing properly at both ends? Are they playing freely or thinking too much? Are there signs that sets — on offense and defense — can be successfully used during the regular season? Is the focus where it needs to be with the opener one week away? Are the points of emphasis being met? Are in-game adjustments being made? Is the chemistry starting to be built?

Asked pointedly what he wanted to see in the second preseason matchup, Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said, “Be better than Game 1.”

Tough to say Bickerstaff got what he wanted. At least, when both teams were playing their regulars.

“I don’t think we started the game out (well). I thought in the first quarter we didn’t get the job done on either side of the ball,” Bickerstaff said. “But I do think we figured it out and recognized what was happening and how do we solve it. To have the ability to do that within the game and not wait to go get film and all that stuff to figure it out, that’s an improvement. But these games will give us different tests and different opportunities to learn as a group — what we need to do, how we need to execute and what our opponents are going to bring.”

FanDuel Sportsbook

STATES: OHIO PRE-LAUNCH BONUS

GET BONUS

$100 + LAUNCH PROMO

ANY GAME!

Struggling with Philadelphia’s switch-heavy defense, small-ball lineup and physicality, the Cavs trailed 33-20 at the end of the first quarter and were down by 11 at halftime. They not only looked out of rhythm early on the offensive end but for the second straight preseason game, Cleveland’s typically stingy defense — the team’s foundation — was a tad too generous, giving up 61 first-half points.

Once again playing without young forward Evan Mobley — one of the two defensive anchors — the Cavs seemed to feel that loss throughout.

A defense that’s designed to take away the paint and limit 3-pointers watched as the Sixers drained 17 triples — 12 more than the Cavs, who were a chilly 5-of-21 from deep.

“We have talented enough offensive players and unselfish enough guys that our offense will come,” Bickerstaff said. “But there’s gonna be nights where the ball just doesn’t go in the hole. And you can’t just not play because one side of the game isn’t working for you. So we will always, and we talked to our guys about this tonight, hang our hat on the defensive end of the floor. If you want to get in, like you’ll compete and help on that end of the floor. The guys that are carriers, starters, heavy-minute guys, that doesn’t exclude them from having to defend and compete on that side of the floor. We’re working our way to that. That’s what training camp and preseason is for.”

Monday night also marked Donovan Mitchell’s first appearance as a Cavalier on his new home court. Hardly the “home debut” he envisioned, it took Mitchell until around the five-minute mark of the second quarter — a do-over free throw that was awarded as a result of a lane violation — to finally see the ball go through the hoop. His first made field goal came a bit later — a thrilling baseline alley-oop from All-Star backcourt mate Darius Garland, the kind of play that brings excitement for what’s ahead.

Mitchell finished with 11 points on 3-of-9 from the field, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and 3-of-6 from the foul line in 28 minutes. He also added five rebounds and three assists against a team-high five turnovers.

Cavaliers All-Star center Jarrett Allen was one of the few bright spots. He feasted on the Joel Embiid-less 76ers. Allen poured in a team-high 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 34 active minutes. Garland chipped in with 17 points and seven assists in 31 minutes.

Caris LeVert, one of six players who started training camp in a battle for the starting small forward job, took another step toward locking that up.

Looking healthy, in shape and like a natural fit with Cleveland’s starting group, LeVert added 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and one block while also serving as the primary defender against the 76ers All-Star guard. James Harden. LeVert, who spoke last week about welcoming a greater responsibility on the defensive end this season, repeatedly hustled on the defensive end, fought through screens and used his active hands to deflect passes and disrupt passing lanes.

Harden finished with 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting.

“That’s going to be needed for myself as well as really everyone else on the team,” LeVert said about his focus on defense. “I try to be reliable on both ends. I think that’s where it starts. Just pushing myself to be the best player I can be. Defense is part of the game. I try to be my best with that as well. I think I’m at my best when I’m not really putting any pressure on myself to score the ball. I’ve always said I’m kind of a complete player. I think it kind of gets overshadowed when you can score the ball because everyone just looks at it like, ‘Oh, he’s a scorer.’ But I really pride myself on being a complete player.”

Kevin Love, who started the first preseason game in Mobley’s usual place, banged his knees recently and was held out for precautionary reasons. Mobley (sprained ankle), Dylan Windler (ankle) and Ricky Rubio (torn ACL recovery) also missed the game.

The Cavs, who will host the Atlanta Hawks in the third preseason game on Wednesday, now have one week to watch the film, work out the kinks, get on the same page and lock in before a season-opening Oct. 19 showdown at Toronto.

Looks like they need all that time.

“This is why we have preseason games,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s an opportunity to work those things out. How do we help Donovan? How do we do more for Darius and Caris and all those guys? This is a great opportunity for us to just see it from other opponents, and what teams are going to try to do and what they’re going to try to take away. Then we make our adjustments to help.”

Cavaliers Fanatics Revenue 2021

Get the latest Cavs merchandise: Here’s where you can order Cleveland Cavaliers gear online, including jerseys, shirts, hats, 2016 NBA Champions products and much more.

If you or a loved one has questions and needs to talk to a professional about gambling, call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or the National Council on Program Gambling Helpline (NCPG) at 1-800-522- 4700.

More Cavaliers coverage

Caris LeVert as Cleveland Cavaliers’ defensive stopper? He’s prepared to take on that role

Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland fit together seamlessly in preseason opener: ‘It was fun, it was easy’

Cavaliers move Saturday’s Wine and Gold Scrimmage start time to 11 am to avoid conflict with Guardians’ playoff game

New-look Cleveland Cavaliers showcase potential in 113-112 preseason loss to Philadelphia 76ers

Caris LeVert to get first crack at Cleveland Cavaliers’ open small forward spot in preseason opener

Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Dylan Windler won’t play in the preseason opener because of an ankle injury, sources say

Cleveland Cavaliers have the NBA’s ‘best young core,’ according to general managers in the annual preseason survey

Mobley could miss two weeks with a sprained right ankle; Cavaliers not currently concerned about status for the season opener

Unbothered by persistent trade speculation, Cedi Osman is looking to build off the best season of his career

‘Immaculate Vibes’: Cleveland Cavaliers building unique culture

Cleveland Cavaliers will pick up the cost of Bally Sports+ for season ticket holders

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.