Canadian Connection Helps Cavs Take Summer League Opener

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

For the Wine and Gold, Friday’s prevailing theme can probably be summed up in a single word: Homecoming.

Cavs forward Anthony Bennett doesn’t originally hail from Las Vegas, but it is where he starred as a single-season collegian. And on Friday night in Cleveland’s Summer League opener, the broad-shouldered forward wowed the crowd and showed signs of why he was the league’s top pick one year earlier.

Bennett got into the scoring column with a massive two-handed dunk early in the affair and stayed strong for four quarters – netting 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting to go with seven boards and a pair of steals in the Cavaliers’ 70-68 victory over the Bucks on Friday night at Cox Pavilion.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of the coaches and they’ve been telling me that all the hard work I’ve been putting in should pay off, so I just kind of relaxed,” said Bennett. “I have great teammates around me, too, and a great coaching staff. So I just played my game.”

“Anthony has come into camp working very hard, he’s improved his physical conditioning and his confidence has gone up as a result, and I thought he played a very solid game with the exception of a couple tough shots that he’ll know better (than to take) in the future,” praised Coach David Blatt.

Bennett’s teammate, fellow countryman and the top pick in this year’s Draft – Andrew Wiggins – was just as sharp, leading Cleveland with 18 points, going 7-for-18 from the floor and adding three boards, a steal and a blocked shot.

The sinewy swingman from Kansas sank his first shot, a pull-up 18-footer, but air-balled his next attempt. After that, he seemed to get his sea-legs and proceeded to go toe-to-toe with the man picked one spot after him this past June, Bucks forward Jabari Parker.

“It was a great feeling (to go up against Parker),” smiled Wiggins. “Me and him are good friends. On the court, we just battle. But off the court, we’re friends. He can score in multiple ways, very smart, intelligent player. It’s always good to play against him.”

Friday’s game, like most Summer League openers, got off to a sloppy start. The teams shot a combined 11-for-35 in the opening quarter. But both clubs heated up in the second and Milwaukee took a 39-37 into the locker room.

The Bucks went up by seven after three periods, but in the fourth, the guard combination of Matthew Dellavedova and Will Cherry propelled a surge that saw Cleveland take a seven-point edge with 3:42 to play. Jabari Parker’s layup with 8.9 remaining got Milwaukee to within one at 68-67, but Dellavedova sank a pair of free throws to take a three-point lead.

Bucks’ guard Nate Wolters missed his second free throw on the ensuing possession and had an opportunity to send the game into OT when he rebounded his own miss, but his three-point attempt at the buzzer drew iron to preserve David Blatt’s first win as the Cavaliers coach.

“It’s always good to win the first one, especially for the guys who’ve been working really hard the last four days,” said Blatt. “We won after struggling mightily – but that makes it fun.”

Dellavedova, one of the standouts from last year’s Summer League squad, scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to round out the Cavaliers in double-figures. Cherry, the scrappy guard who led the Canton Charge into the postseason last spring, scored five of his seven points in the fourth – going 3-of-5 from the floor with three boards and an assist.

For Milwaukee, Parker and sophomore Giannis Antetokounmpo notched 17 points apiece.

Cleveland gets back to the practice floor on Saturday before a back-to-back on Sunday (vs. San Antonio) and Monday (vs. Philadelphia). Tournament play begins on Wednesday afternoon.

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