Notes, quotes and observations as the Cavaliers fell 102-95 to the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
1. The Cavs were coming off back-to-back victories over 2018 playoffs teams, winning at Philadelphia Friday and Houston Saturday. Yet even though their modest streak was snapped, Kyle Korver ventured into the post-game snow feeling positive about the 4-15 team’s progress.
2. “Hey, come on, the Cavs are going in the right direction,” Korver said. “We had a tough stretch. We’ve got to keep on bringing the same juice, we’ve got to keep on getting better, keep on learning, keep on building our chemistry and all these things. We get George Hill back pretty soon, that will be a nice little bump for us. You know, we’re trending in the right direction. We’re not there yet, but we’re going in the right direction.”
3. Rodney Hood was just as encouraged by the Cavs’ performance.
4. “It shows a lot of growth. When they stretched it from eight to 12 points at times we could have just gave in, but we didn’t, we kept fighting,” Hood said. “We’ll be in that position and hopefully we’ll hit a couple more shots and hopefully make a couple more plays on the defensive end and maybe win the game.
5. “This is how the NBA works. I think this is a good learning curve for us and we’ll see what happens next time we’re in that position.”
6. Korver recorded season-highs in points (22) and 3-pointers made (six). Larry Nance Jr. tallied a career-high seven assists, along with 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Hood came through with his fourth 20-point game of the season. Tristan Thompson put up his fourth consecutive double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), which ties the longest streak of his career.
7. The Cavs fought back from a 14-point second quarter deficit to cut it to four with 5:03 to go.
8. Yet two of their most reliable scorers, Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson, shot a combined 6 of 24 from the field. Sexton went 5 for 19, 5 of 16 from 2-point range. Clarkson was 1 for 5, 0 for 4 from long range.
9. Sexton said the Timberwolves didn’t change anything defensively against him.
10. “My shots just wasn’t falling,” he said. “Those games happen. Just make sure I turn something else on so I can go out there and get the victory for my team.”
11. As for what he should have “turned on,” Sexton said, “Just playing defense, contain my man, change the pace of the game, picking it up and not try to be in the half court.”
12. Cavs coach Larry Drew said Sexton’s performance is not graded merely by how many points he scores. He finished with 11, along with seven rebounds and four assists.
13. “It being a good game or him having a bad game should not be predicated on whether he’s making shots,” Drew said. “He has to do other things to impact the game. That’s what good point guards do. He still has to get us into our offense and he still has to be vocal on the floor and he still has to defensively have an assignment.”
14. Drew said he felt Sexton did those things.
15. “Early in the game I kind of felt he was aggressive, but got a little too aggressive when we needed ball movement,” Drew said. “But he got to the rim and a couple of times the ball was slapped out of his hand and off his leg. Collin is a live wire and I’m not going to slow him down. I want him to be in attack mode 24-7. I thought early he made some questionable decisions. But again, that’s part of the learning curve for him. As the game progressed, I thought he got better.”
16. Hood said Minnesota did a good job blitzing the Cavs’ scorers and keeping them on the perimeter.
17. “We got some open shots that if we hit it changed the momentum, but it didn’t go down,” Hood said. “I think we got a little frustrated. We’ve got to continue to play the way we played in the first and fourth, with pace.
18. “Offensively we played a little sluggish at times. Defense, I think we guarded them well in the half court, but they turned us over a little bit, they were good with their hands, swiping down and got out in transition. Offensively we’ve just got to play a little bit faster, especially when a team locks in like that.”
19. Korver didn’t find any glaring problem with the Cavs’ offense.
20. “I just thought we weren’t quite as crisp as we have been the last couple games,” Korver said. “Offensively we never got into a good enough flow. We missed some shots at the basket, we had some opportunities for some dump-offs and kind of took a couple tougher shots. Just never really got that momentum going that we needed. We had it in spurts, just not long enough.”
21. Even though the Cavs recorded 24 assists on 36 made field goals, Hood said the Cavs’ ball movement could not compare to Friday’s and Saturday’s effort.
22. “We’ve got to do it the whole game, make it who we are instead of doing it in spurts,” Hood said. “When we do it in spurts, we’re good, we get open shots. When we don’t, we get stagnant and then it becomes, I wouldn’t say bad basketball, but it makes it tougher for us to score. We’ve just got to continue to stay with the same habits.”
23. Clarkson had seemed to be establishing himself as the Cavs’ closer in tight games. Although he played 81/2 minutes in the fourth quarter, he was subbed out for Hood with 3:32 to go and did not return.
24. “I don’t think I gave up on him late. He played a majority of the fourth quarter,” Drew said of Clarkson. “Late when I brought Rodney back, Korver was making shots so I wanted to keep him in there.
25. “I would never give up on Jordan. When I did make the substitution, I felt I really needed to try something to get us over the hump. Jordan is a big part of what we do and will continue to be that. I will continue to try to find ways to get us over that hump when I feel that we are struggling.”
26. Nance made his fifth start of the season at power forward and his seven assists were more than Timberwolves’ point guard Jeff Teague totaled. Nance came into the night averaging a career-high 2.6 assists and Monday marked his seventh game with four or more.
27. “I enjoy making plays for others. I think I may have done it a couple times too much tonight,” Nance said. “I’ll pass up my own shot to get somebody else one. It makes me feel good and makes them feel good. I just feel it’s a level of unselfishness that you have to go into the game with.”
28. David Nwaba had started three consecutive games, but Nwaba came up with soreness in his right knee and was forced to sit out. So Drew went back to the big man pairing of Nance and Thompson.
29. “I thought they complemented one another very well,” Drew said. “I thought Larry was really good as far as attacking the basket. We did some things and got him to the rim and he missed a couple of chippies, but I thought his mentality was to attack the basket and thought he did that very well. I can see he and Tristan enjoy playing with one another and off one another. Moving forward, hopefully they will continue to do that because there will be more teams that will we face that have big lineups. We are going to need both of those guys to play well.”
30. Thompson had three assists and two of them led to Nance slams, one on an alley oop late in the third quarter.
31. “Big man assists. Love them,” Nance said. “I think I had a couple drop-offs to him, he had a couple to me, and it’s just old-school basketball, you know? Roll down the lane, drop it to one big. The help defender’s got to step up and it leaves somebody open. It’s usually the drop-off for the other big. When you get that kind of passing going, it’s a good indicator that you’re playing the right way.”
32. Asked if the alley oop is his favorite, Nance said, “Yeah, I also missed about four of them, too. Either way, he threw a lob to me and I was throwing the drop passes to him, so I’m sure we’ll mix it up.”
33. Drew called Nance “a willing passer, which makes him very valuable.”
34. “We run a lot of things that calls for him to make decisions and make plays,” Drew said. “Very similar to things that we do from an initiating standpoint when Kevin Love is playing. I carry that same approach with Larry because I trust he will make the right decision and he’s a good passer. Thought he did a really good job and not trying to force things, just making the simple plays.”
35. Nance explained why he used some of a Timberwolves’ timeout with 3:32 remaining to get an explanation from referee Ray Acosta. Nance was whistled for an offensive foul against Derrick Rose with the Cavs down 91-84.
36. “Yeah, I knew exactly what happened. It was a flop,” Nance said. “I tried to get my point across pretty adamantly, but the call was made, it wasn’t going anywhere. Hopefully that’s one they review and make the right call.
37. “He said I set the screen and that I clipped him with my foot when he came off the screen. But my response was like, ‘He grabbed his chin. If I hit him in the foot, why is he grabbing his chin?’ We went back and forth on that. I just hope they go back and look to improve.”
38. The Cavs hit the road for games at Oklahoma City on Wednesday and Boston on Friday. Check back following Saturday’s home game against the Raptors.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.