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The first few Cava-Lists have been steeped in historical stuff – from Joe Tait’s last game on Fan App Night to Zydrunas Ilgauskas picking up a Lithuanian cheese wheel in Chicago.
But if movies like “Back to the Future” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t want to get stuck living in the past. So today, let’s take a look in the not-too-distant past: This current season that was trending up just when the COVID-19 lockdown brought things to a screeching halt.
In what seems like forever ago, the Cavaliers had just dropped a five-point decision to the Bulls in Chicago on March 10, but were coming off back-to-back home wins over Western Conference squads, Denver and San Antonio, completing the season sweep against both.
The Cavs were coming home anyway after the Chicago game and before embarking on a five-game road trip that began in Charlotte. But the team plane hasn’t left the tarmac since.
With a pair of big NBA meetings happening and the end of this week, we could be on the cusp of some news on what comes next. While we wait, here’s a quick look at where the 2019-20 campaign was before being so rudely interrupted …
Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers in scoring in 32 games, including the final game in Chicago, going 12-of-16 from the floor for 26 points.
Tristan Thompson led the team in rebounding on 29 occasions and at 10.1rpg was the league’s 10th-leading rebounder. Darius Garland led the squad in assists in 19 games – putting together two four-game runs of five-plus dimes.
Collin Sexton (18 games) edged Larry Nance Jr. (16) for the lead in steals. Tristan led the team in blocked shots on 24 occasions, including his five-swat showing in a home win over the Bulls in late October.
The high-water mark for an opponent this year was James Harden’s 55-point outburst on December 11 – going 20-for-34 from the floor, also season-highs against the Cavs.
It was one of four 50-point games for Harden this year, also posting a 60-point explosion against the Hawks. It spoiled a breakout performance by Cleveland’s Kevin Porter Jr. – a young lefty who idolizes Harden and finished with 24 points off the bench, including 6-of-9 from deep.
In a home loss to the T-Wolves, Dante Exum scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half, hitting all nine field goals he attempted and going 11-of-13 from the floor overall – including 4-of-4 from long-range in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Cavs biggest win of the season was a 22-point drubbing of the Hawks on February 12 in the final game before the All-Star Break. All three starting bigs (Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr. and Andre Drummond) finished with double-doubles.
The biggest loss was a 43-point shellacking at the hands of Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in Dallas on November 22.
The Cavaliers were 4-1 in overtime games this year, and that one loss was one of the season’s most entertaining games.
The single OT defeat was a 139-134 decision at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in which the Cavs shot better than 50 percent from deep and got big nights from Collin Sexton and Kevin Love, but they also surrendered a 10-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation against the Nets.
Both victories over the Spurs came in overtime, the Cavs earned a dramatic OT win in Detroit and capped a huge comeback over the Heat in Cleveland on February 24.
From the 1:12 mark of the third quarter to the 8:19 mark of the fourth, the Cavaliers went on a 24-0 run in a wild home loss to the Rockets.
It was the Cavs longest such run since a 29-0 stretch against Milwaukee in 2009.
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson got off to hot starts to the season, especially Love. The title-winning duo each doubled-up in Cleveland’s first four games of the season.
Through the first five games of the year, Love had 86 points, 84 rebounds and 24 assists. The only other player to post numbers like that through his team’s first five outings was Wilt Chamberlain in 1966.
Including the five-time All-Star, the Cavs have three players in the league’s top 25 in double-doubles: Drummond (4th, 47), Thompson (19th, 25) and Love (21st, 23).
Collin Sexton had Cleveland’s top scoring game of the season of the season, dropping 41 points on the Celtics on March 4, going 17-of-30 from the floor to go with six assists. Those 41 also stand as Sexton's career-high.
Tristan Thompson had the top rebounding mark, grabbing a career-high 22 against the Knicks on January 20 – including 10 off the offensive glass.
During his late-season renaissance, Matthew Dellavedova had his best individual assist game – dropping 14 dimes in a home win over Denver.
In the same game that Sexton went for 41 points, Larry Nance Jr. had the Cavs season-high with four steals. John Henson, who was part of the deal for Andre Drummond, had Cleveland’s best shot-blocking night, rejecting seven Grizzlies’ offerings on December 20.
The Cavaliers had some fun victories this year, but a February 24 home win over the Heat might’ve taken the cake.
In it, the Cavs trailed by 22 points in the third quarter but held Miami to just 12 points in the final period and blew past the Heat in overtime – handing Eric Spoelstra’s squad its first OT loss of the season.
Kevin Porter Jr. was outstanding in the win – becoming just the third Cleveland rookie (Dion Waiters, Jordan McRae) to net 30 points since 2012-13. Porter finished with 30 points, eight boards and three steals – just the third Cavs rookie (LeBron James, Ron Harper) to post such numbers.
At the midway point of January, Larry Nance Jr. turned a corner. Beginning with a January 17 loss to the Grizzlies, the 27-year-old Akron native scored double-digits in 19 of those 24 games, with nine double-doubles in the mix.
Over that stretch, Nance shot .567 from the floor, posted 10 games with at least two triples and 11 games of at least two steals.
During the 2019-20 season, Tristan Thompson continued to cement his name in the Cavaliers record books – becoming just the fourth Cavalier in team history to total at least 400 blocks and 4,000 boards – joining LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Hot Rod Williams.
When play was suspended this year, Thompson ranked 7th in Cavs team history in games played (619), 2nd in offensive rebounds (2,115), 4th in defensive rebounds (3,278), 3rd in total rebounds (5,993) and 6th in blocked shots (447).
Coming in as the No. 5 overall pick of last June’s Draft, Darius Garland played just five games in college at Vanderbilt. But he looked like an old pro in his 59 starts with the Wine & Gold.
Garland, who missed the last five games before play was halted, averaged 12.3ppg and shot .355 from long-range – both ranking him 8th among all rookies. His 3.9apg was second-best in his class.
He was the only NBA freshman this season to total at least 700 points, 225 assists and 100 three-pointers.
Both Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman stared all 65 games for Cleveland this season, and the Young Bull hasn’t missed a single game since being drafted No. 8 overall in 2018 – 147 straight. Only Andre Miller (185) has a longer streak to start his Cavaliers career.
Sexton, who scored 21 points in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge in Chicago, has also posted the most double-digit performances among players from his Draft class (134).