COLUMBUS: On a night when Earl Clark got the night off, Alonzo Gee turned in his best performance of the preseason in what continues to be a back-and-forth race at small forward.
Gee had 14 points and a pair of blocks, made 4 of 6 3-pointers and played the type of basketball coach Mike Brown is looking for in the Cavs’ 104-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Monday at Value City Arena.
Still, Brown isn’t ready to declare a leader, much less a winner, in the ongoing battle for the small forward spot.
“They’re both even,” Brown said. “I’m going to evaluate throughout the whole preseason. I’m even going to evaluate it going into the regular season. It’s a healthy thing for us. The good thing about it is I think we have depth this year.”
Gee struggled in his first two preseason games following a hamstring injury, missing all five of his shots. But he has rebounded nicely in the last two games and has made 8 of his last 15 shots.
Clark, who also stumbled out to a slow start to begin preseason, was a healthy scratch on Monday. He has shot better than 33 percent in one of the five preseason games in which he has appeared, but Brown thought the two were statistically similar entering Monday’s game.
“Zo had a good game and he played the way small forwards should,” Brown said. “With that in mind, we’ve got to keep looking at different combinations, different scenarios and try to figure it out come opening night. I’ve talked to both of them. They know they’ve just got to keep busting their behinds and just because one may start opening night doesn’t mean the other doesn’t for the year. It’s great to have healthy competition like we have.”
Brown has maintained he wants his small forwards to defend and drift to the corners offensively, because they’re bound to be left open. Gee certainly was Monday night, and Kyrie Irving certainly found him.
Irving had 17 points and 12 assists, finding Gee on one with a nifty pass from under the basket. But Irving also had five of the Cavs’ 22 turnovers, which Brown concedes is a concern this late in the preseason. The Cavs haven’t spent much time working on offense this month, but Brown is concerned with the “home run passes” the Cavs are trying to make.
“I’m bothered with it not because our opponents are causing the turnovers, but because we are,” Brown said. “A lot of them are coming when guys are trying to make home run passes or home run plays, or they over-dribble and get too deep trying to make a play. Those are the turnovers we need to do away with.”
Tristan Thompson had 16 rebounds in 27 minutes and Sergey Karasev sprained his ankle in the first half and did not return. Dion Waiters joined Clark as a healthy scratch on the bench.
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