CLEVELAND, Ohio — In a gloomy Cavaliers season marred by injuries, inconsistency, losing streaks and lopsided losses, Cedi Osman is starting to become a beacon of hope.
The Cavs lost their sixth straight game, 100-94, against the Miami Heat on Friday. It’s the third time Cleveland has lost to Miami this season.
But head coach Larry Drew spoke before the game about not getting caught up in the win-loss record. Doing that will only make this season more mentally challenging than it already is for his players.
In this kind of year, Drew’s greatest — and perhaps only — reward is seeing positive strides from the youngsters. After all, it’s those players who are supposed to lay the foundation and eventually steer the Cavs into a better future.
Osman’s starting to look the part. One night after setting a career-high with 25 points against the Boston Celtics, an Eastern Conference elite, Osman topped that mark against Miami.
He scored 29 points on 11-of-20 from the field to go with four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 39 minutes. It’s the 31st game he has tallied double figures this season. He accomplished that just seven times in 61 games as a rookie.
His breakout game featured the entire arsenal.
Helping the Cavs pick apart the suffocating Heat zone, which gave Cleveland plenty of problems in the first two matchups, Osman often flashed to the foul line — the zone weak point — for running floaters. Osman also sprinted out in transition, with whirling finishes in traffic, before the Miami defense could get set. When given chances, he even knocked down outside shots consistently, hitting 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Earlier this season, Osman seemed to lack confidence in his jumper. Often, the second-year player would run himself off the 3-point line. On Friday, he stepped into those looks without hesitation.
His final two buckets were an offensive rebound put-back and a beautiful back-cut for a reverse layup that capped his career night.
Osman’s defense has been troublesome this season. Playing out of position, he is typically one of the opponent’s primary targets. He — and the Cavs — were overpowered by the grimy Heat once again, allowing the Heat to reach the 100-point mark on 46.3 percent from the field.
But those individual defensive metrics, which point to Osman being one of the NBA’s worst defenders, shouldn’t overshadow the development he has made at the other end of the floor.
After missing the previous eight games because of a sprained MCL, Larry Nance Jr. returned to the lineup Friday night.
The coaching staff wanted to ease Nance back into the rotation, opting to bring him off the bench. Nance helped lead a unit that struggled in Boston Wednesday. His energy, leadership and playmaking were all missed, as the Cavs went 1-7 without him, losing by an average of of 16.9 points during that stretch.
On Friday, Nance made an impact quickly, scoring first on a running hook shot over Hassan Whiteside, one of the league’s premier shot-blockers. Later on, Nance followed a Rodney Hood miss with a thunderous putback slam.
Nance finished with six points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
Farewell to Cleveland
Dwyane Wade’s last dance in Cleveland ended with him exchanging jerseys with Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton. Wade, set to retire at the end of this season, received a tribute video during the first timeout.
In his final game at The Q, Wade scored 13 points to go with six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.
The Cavs will head to Chicago for the fourth and final game of the season against the Bulls on Sunday afternoon.