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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-26) will play the first of a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies (17-16) on Wednesday night.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-26) will play the first of a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies (17-16) on Wednesday night. 

    When: 8 p.m.

    Where: FedEx Forum

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs beat the Grizzlies 112-89 on Feb. 23. 

    Cavs minute: The Cavs are expected to be without both Rodney Hood (Achilles) and David Nwaba (ankle) in addition to Tristan Thompson (foot) and Kevin Love (foot). ... The Cavs swept the season series versus Memphis for the 10th time in franchise history last year. ... Cleveland's reserves are averaging 43.6 points per game, which is the sixth-highest mark in the NBA. ... Over the last six games, Jordan Clarkson is averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes. ... Alec Burks scored 12 points during the Cavs' loss Sunday against Chicago. It was the eighth time he has scored in double-digits with Cleveland. ... Collin Sexton leads all rookies in free throw percentage (87.7), while ranking fourth in points (14.8) and assists (2.5). 

    Grizzlies minute: Mike Conley leads the Grizzlies in points (20.5) and assists (6.5). He is also one of four players currently leading an NBA franchise in games played, 3s made, assists and steals (LeBron James, Cleveland; Reggie Miller, Indiana; John Stockton, Utah). ... Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. ranks eighth in the NBA in blocks per game (1.84). ... Earlier this season, Jackson became the fourth player in NBA history total 250-plus points, 20-plus steals and 40-plus blocks in his first 20 career games, joining David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Bill Walton. ... The Grizzlies snapped a streak of eight straight games scoring under 100 points, tallying 107 in their most recent win against the Los Angeles Lakers. ... Memphis is one of 10 teams in the Western Conference with a record above .500 -- the most ever in one conference this late into the season. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Jaron Blossomgame

    F Cedi Osman

    C Larry Nance Jr.

    G Alec Burks

    G Collin Sexton

    Grizzlies

    F Jaren Jackson Jr.

    F Kyle Anderson

    C Marc Gasol

    G Garrett Temple

    G Mike Conley


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    The holidays are a great time for family and friends. But more importantly, it's a great time for sports.

    The holidays are a great time for family and friends. But more importantly, it's a great time for sports. The NBA's Christmas tradition pits some of the best teams in the league against each other as a gift for fans. The NFL, on the other hand, dominates the Thanksgiving airwaves, providing fans with some hard hits to go along that those hard-hitting carbs. Which sports day is better? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    Rocking around the Christmas tree is all good, but it's definitely better with some NBA basketball.

    Exchanging gifts and watching some of the best athletes run and gun their way up the court go hand-in-hand now. The NBA takes full advantage of families gathering by scheduling their biggest stars. LeBron James and the superteam Golden State Warriors are staples most years, so you know the quality of the basketball is good.

    You never know what you're going to get with NFL Thanksgiving. At least you know the stars are always out for NBA Christmas.

    WATCH: Best NBA Plays From Christmas Day

    NBA Christmas is fine if you like ignoring family during one of the most important holidays of the year. At least with Thanksgiving, you get to enjoy a cornucopia of food while grown men throw each other around on the field.

    Nothing distracts from awkward family dinners quite like football. You can avoid talking to Aunt Sally about school or Uncle Glen about his uncomfortable political leanings by throwing on one of the many games of the day. Football is not only entertaining but also rescues us from awful conversations.

    NFL Thanksgiving is better!

    WATCH: NFL's Greatest Thanksgiving Day Plays Of All Time

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    Gregg Williams was promoted to interim head coach after Hue Jackson was fired.

    Eight games into the season, Gregg Williams was promoted to interim head coach after Hue Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns. After going 5-2 in the next seven games, many are clamoring for him to be promoted again to full-time head coach. Others remember the Bountygate scandal while Williams was at New Orleans and feel he should never be a head coach because of it. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    The Browns have been some questionable personnel decisions in the past. Time to change that trend with a no-brainer.

    Williams will finish the season with a winning record as interim head coach and has the team playing good football as the season closes. He has built a great working relationship with Baker Mayfield and it is showing on the field. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keep the win train moving and hire Williams for the head coaching slot.

    COLUMN: Browns would be wise to keep Williams as coach

    Williams is a great short-term option for a maligned franchise looking to turn things around. As a long-term fit though, there are better options for sustained success.

    While the team is playing well now, Williams-coached teams have historically been bad. At his last full-time head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills, Williams finished with a 17-31 record in three seasons. His loud coaching style will not play well over an entire season has players may tune him out. Plus there's the stink of Bountygate, where he paid players to hurt opponents on the field, hanging over his potential candidacy that teams have to take into account.

    Cleveland should go another direction for its head coach.

    OPINION: Williams built case for Browns job, but he's likely not right long-term fit

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27) will play the second of a three-game road trip against the Miami Heat (16-17) on Friday night.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27) will play the second of a three-game road trip against the Miami Heat (16-17) on Friday night. 

    When: 8 p.m.

    Where: American Airlines Arena

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs lost to the Heat 98-79 on March 27. 

    Cavs minute: The Cavs have lost four straight games, failing to score 100 points in three of them. It's the fourth time this season Cleveland has had a losing streak of at least four games. ... The Cavs will try to win in Miami for the first time since Jan. 25, 2010. ... The Cavs have held opponents to under 30 percent shooting on 3-pointers in four of the last seven outings, including Wednesday night at Memphis. ... In Wednesday's loss, the Cavs outrebounded Memphis 53-34, their second-biggest rebound differential this season. It was also the 20th time the Cavs have tied or outrebounded their opponent this season. ... Jordan Clarkson is currently tied with Clippers center Montrezl Harrell for the second-most 20-point games among all NBA bench players this season with 11. Clarkson trails only Los Angeles guard Lou Williams who has 13 such games. ... Cedi Osman extended his double-figure scoring streak to a career-best six straight games after tallying 10 points and adding seven rebounds in 31 minutes on Wednesday. ... Since Dec. 5 -- a stretch that spans 12 games -- Larry Nance Jr. is averaging a near double-double with 11.8 points on 58.2 percent shooting to go with 9.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.83 steals in 30.4 minutes per game. 

    Heat minute: Miami has won five of its last six games, with the lone loss coming at the buzzer on Wednesday night versus Toronto. ... James Johnson scored 12 points Wednesday night, giving him 200 double-figure scoring games for his career. ... Hassan Whiteside ranks third in the NBA in blocks (2.64) and fourth in rebounds (13.1). ... Josh Richardson has made at least one 3-pointer in 15 straight games, which matches his career best streak. ... Miami is 10-1 this season when holding opponents to under 100 points. ... Dwyane Wade is just one 3-point field goal short of 500 for his career. ... Miami's bench is averaging 47.7 points over the last 15 games. In those 15 contests, Miami's bench has outscored opponents reserves 13 times and has eclipsed the 50-point mark in five of those games. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F Jaron Blossomgame

    C Larry Nance Jr.

    G Alec Burks

    G Collin Sexton

    Heat

    F Rodney McGruder

    F James Johnson

    C Hassan Whiteside

    G Josh Richardson

    G Justise Winslow


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    Beyond their numerous complexities, the Cavs have an identity crisis.

    MIAMI -- In a league defined by high-tempo offense and a large number of 3-pointers, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a plodding group that relies heavily on mid-range jumpers. 

    Beyond their numerous complexities, the Cavs have an identity crisis. 

    Following recent losses against Chicago and Memphis, swingman Cedi Osman lamented Cleveland's slow pace. He wasn't the only one. Since training camp, the Cavs have spoken about how much better they function when playing fast.

    "Our pace was just slow in the second half," Osman said following the 20-point loss against Chicago. "We can't play like that because other teams, they want to run. And with that slow pace, we can't do anything on offense. And obviously they're trying to run, they find easy baskets and then everybody's heads are going down, and we can't let that happen."

    And yet, it still does. According to NBA.com stats, the Cavs play at the second-slowest pace in the NBA. Only Memphis is slower.

    But the Grizzlies are able to survive because of their suffocating defense that currently ranks fifth. Keeping the possession count down plays right into their hands. They can frustrate opponents, forcing them to continuously operate against a lengthy, athletic, swarming set defense in the halfcourt. 

    The Cavs? Well, they rank dead last in defensive rating. They don't gain any schematic advantage slowing the game down. If anything, it makes them worse. 

    Through 35 games, the Cavs have taken 925 shots in nine seconds or less. They are shooting 49.8 percent from the field on those looks. Inside 15 seconds, Cleveland is shooting 42.0 percent. Most of their attempts come between seven and 15 ticks, which is average in the NBA. But they are only shooting 43.9 percent on those tries.

    "Our defense as a whole has to make that happen," Larry Nance Jr. said prior to Friday's shootaround in Miami. "It's hard to take it out of the net and beat them down the court. When we're playing so poorly defensively we can't really run."

    It's hard to envision a huge leap on that end. Tristan Thompson's return will help. He's the mouthpiece on defense. David Nwaba returning to full strength will provide a bit of a lift, as he's one of the few players capable of providing resistance against the opponent's best threat.

    There's a reason the Cavs numbers are worse defensively than even a year ago. But numerous other poor defensive teams are finding ways to quicken the tempo.

    The Sacramento Kings are 22nd in defensive rating. They are second in pace. Laughed at for years, Sacramento has found a working formula, one that has them in the Western Conference playoff mix. Given their issues on defense, playing fast while bombing 3's and hunting shots early is really their only hope.

    So can the Cavs find a way to run, to play the fast style they covet, without improving the woeful defense? 

    "That we haven't figured out yet," Nance said. "We're better in the fullcourt than the halfcourt and that's something that we need to see if we can get more of. On the break, we have five guys that are pretty dangerous out there. Halfcourt offense, teams are starting to stall us and slow us down a bit. Something we have to stay focused on."

    Cavs head coach Larry Drew says everything starts with him. He's constantly staying on rookie Collin Sexton, whose speed and quickness should be an advantage. Drew is also reminding backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova to seek easy baskets in transition -- even though he's more sluggish in his approach.

    "I'm the guy who has to make sure these guys play with pace," Drew said. "My message every day is to play with pace. But you have to be smart, especially on the road. When we come into tonight's game, and this is a very tough arena to win in, we have to play with pace and get the ball up the floor. But that doesn't mean quick-shooting the basketball. Every game we play, we have to pick up the tempo so we get some easy baskets. We can't be a predominantly halfcourt team and try to rely on our halfcourt offense to get us baskets."

    The Cavs are 23rd in fastbreak points, averaging just 10.7 per game. That puts constant pressure on the offense to execute, which has been a season-long problem, one that has only worsened given injuries and personnel changes.

    Kyle Korver and JR Smith are gone, having an impact on Cleveland's outside shooting. Kevin Love, the team's best player, has been missing since the fourth game. The rest of the roster is made up of sporadic drivers, leaving Cleveland with very few quality options in the halfcourt. 

    The Cavs rank 22nd in offensive efficiency, 29th in assist percentage, 27th in 3-pointer frequency, 2nd in mid-range frequency and 29th in effective field goal percentage -- a metric used in the NBA that adjusts for the fact that 3-point field goals are worth 50 percent more than 2-point field goals. 

    Their NBA-worst 8-27 record reflects those marks. Their style doesn't fit this era. 


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    The documents, which have been signed by McCaw, will be sent via e-mail and are expected to arrive later this afternoon or early in the evening.

    MIAMI -- Short on bodies and seeing a unique opportunity to potentially add a player with NBA experience, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Golden State Warriors restricted free agent Patrick McCaw to an offer sheet, a league source told cleveland.com.

    The documents, which have been signed by McCaw, will be sent to the Warriors via e-mail and are expected to arrive later this afternoon or early in the evening.

    From there, the Warriors have 48 hours match. 

    According to a source, McCaw signed a two-year, $6 million contract that is non-guaranteed. The Cavs structured the contract in a way to keep flexibility on their end while also choosing a number that could be prohibitive for the Warriors. 

    If Golden State elects to match the offer sheet and keeps McCaw for the season, it would cost the team around $11 million in luxury tax and a total cost of about $14 million this season -- a stiff penalty, especially for a guy whose role would be unclear with the defending champs. 

    Because of Cleveland's salary cap situation, signing McCaw would push the Cavs right up against the luxury tax. He would take the final roster spot, which has been open all season. 

    According to The Undefeated's Marc Spears, McCaw declined a two-year, $5.2 million offer from Golden State this summer, which has left him in limbo during the first part of the 2018-19 season. At the very least, the Cavs' offer provides McCaw a little more clarity and gives him freedom from restricted free agency.  

    The deal will pay McCaw $3 million in each of the next two seasons, but the Cavs or Warriors could waive McCaw before Jan. 7 and not be liable for his remaining salary.

    Given the more recent injuries to Rodney Hood (Achilles) and David Nwaba (ankle), along with Kevin Love (foot) and Tristan Thompson (foot), the Cavs first contemplated signing a player from the G League on a 10-day contract to fill in short term.

    They looked over a few options before determining nobody available matches McCaw's combination of talent, upside and playing experience so the Cavs decided to "take a swing," a source said, even though they understand the Warriors very well may match.  

    McCaw, 23, averaged 4.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 57 games last season.  

    ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal. 


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    The loss becomes the latest for the Cavs in Miami -- a place where they haven't won since Jan. 25, 2010.

    MIAMI -- The Cleveland Cavaliers were fully aware of the numbers. They entered Friday night expecting a healthy dose of the Miami zone. After all, no team uses that particular defense more than the Heat. 

    This time, the Heat waited. Miami didn't use their stingy zone at all in the first half, wanting just the right time to unleash a defensive look that has troubled Cleveland in recent games. 

    It finally came out early in the third quarter, flummoxing the Cavaliers' offense and spearheading a 118-94 Miami win. 

    The loss becomes the latest for the Cavs in Miami -- a place where they haven't won since Jan. 25, 2010. 

    Playing with just nine guys, the Cavs played well for one half. Trailing by just four at the half, Cleveland watched as the Heat opened the first three-plus minutes of the third quarter on an 11-4 sprint to grasp control of the game for the first time all night.

    Then Miami put the clamps on with a 2-3 zone that took the Cavs completely out of rhythm. 

    After scoring 52 points on 48.6 percent from the field and 5-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half, the Cavs tallied just 42 points on 14-of-46 (30.4 percent) shooting in the second. 

    The zone was Cleveland's kryptonite. Miami used it for the final 20 minutes.

    On more than 30 halfcourt trips against the zone, the Cavs scored on just 10 of them. They had a few other successful possessions in the second half by sprinting up the floor quickly and hunting shots in transition. Cedi Osman buried a triple that way. He raced out for a layup on another trip. The Cavs earned a few opportunities at the free throw line as well. 

    But in the halfcourt, Cleveland couldn't find solve the puzzle.

    For most of the second half, the offense was a mixture of poor shots, turnovers and missed opportunities. Most of the Cavs' success came late in the fourth quarter, when the contest had already been decided.

    Jordan Clarkson led the way with 18 points. Alec Burks tallied 17, with just four coming in the second half, as his shooting limitations became glaring. Cedi Osman tallied double figures once again, scoring 12 points, one of the few players that had success attacking Miami's zone by slashing into the creases. 

    Nance spoke recently about needing to expect this. Cleveland's season-long shooting woes are well-documented. Teams are going to keep packing the paint and limit Cleveland's abundance of drivers. 

    That's exactly what Miami did. It's a copycat league. Other opponents are taking notes. 

    As Nance said following the loss against Toronto one week ago, until the Cavs prove they can knock down shots at a high enough rate, they are going to see a lot of zone. When that happens, they will need to execute much better.

    Channing Frye provides a lift

    In the starting lineup because of a tough matchup against 7-footer Hassan Whiteside, with Ante Zizic unavailable because of an achy knee, Frye gave Cleveland the early offensive spark head coach Larry Drew was hoping for when filling out the lineup card.

    Frye scored eight points in the first quarter, going 3-of-5 from the field.

    His threatening outside shot helped stretch the floor, pulling one of the league's premier shot blockers away from the rim.

    But Frye fizzled after the quick start. He only took two shots the rest of the game. 

    Up next

    The Cavs will wrap up their three-game road trip in Atlanta on Saturday night. 


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    Wade has lived through these same struggles. His rookie year, the Heat started 5-15 and were just 13-19 before the new year. Watch video

    MIAMI -- When the final buzzer sounded, after Dwyane Wade handed his sweaty pink jersey to old teammate Chris Bosh and shared a few laughs with Channing Frye, Wade grabbed Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton for a chat at center court.

    "He is a competitor," Wade said following Miami's 118-94 win. "You could see that from high school. Just seeing the look on his face afterwards, you know, losing just isn't fun. Even though you are a young team or a rookie, losing still isn't fun."

    Wade has lived through these same struggles. His rookie year, the Heat started 5-15 and were just 13-19 before the new year. Sure, they rallied late to grab a playoff spot, but there were plenty of lessons along the way. Then in the 2007-08 season, the Heat finished with the league's worst record, going 15-67. 

    "I remember when the vet guys pulled me aside and kept my confidence up," Wade said. "I know it is important to hear words of encouragement. I just told him to keep going and don't get too frustrated. Things can turn around quickly for him. I just want him to keep his head up and keep his confidence going. It is a long season and he is going to have a long career."

    Sexton's woes continued against the Heat, as the Cavs dropped to 8-28. He finished with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting and 1-of-4 from 3-point range. He committed as many turnovers (three) as assists. Since having a streak of double-digit scoring games snapped against Milwaukee two weeks ago, Sexton has been in an offensive funk.

    Friday night marked the third single-figure game over the last eight. During that stretch, the teenager is averaging 10.8 points on 36-of-110 (32.7 percent) from the field and 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. The frustration is starting to build. It's clear with each missed shot and every mistake. 

    Opponents have made adjustments. Not having Tristan Thompson freeing him up with menacing screens has also played a role. It's also life in the NBA. Few players are immune to poor stretches and Sexton, who arrived with a reputation as an iffy outside shooter, wasn't going to keep knocking them down at a high clip. 

    "He's a fierce competitor," head coach Larry Drew said. "He's still learning and has a lot to learn. You bring in a young player and you hope they have that type of tenacity and that's who he is and who he has been for us. As a young player you are going to go through some ups and downs and that's all part of the growth process, but he's willing to learn and that makes him a candidate for being a terrific player. Hopefully he can continue to learn, get better and improve."

    Sexton's struggles have been magnified more because of who he is, what he means to the future of the Cavaliers and his short-term importance to Cleveland's success.

    In wins, Sexton is averaging 20.0 points on 51.9 percent shooting. In losses, he is averaging just 13.1 points on 39 percent from the field.

    Friday's final score showed another blowout loss, Cleveland's fifth in a row, with Miami pulling away on the heels of a brilliant zone-filled second half. But veteran Channing Frye doesn't want the hustle, fight and competitiveness to get lost. Undermanned and outclassed, the Cavs were down just four at the break against a potential Eastern Conference playoff team. Another group, another night, perhaps that effort level isn't there and it's never that close. On this night it was -- until the third quarter.

    But with the Cavs forced to play nine guys, what can reasonably be expected?

    Drew believes they wore down physically, especially inside as they were left with just two bigs to deal with Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. That's understandable. Cleveland's two best players, Kevin Love and Thompson, are injured. Rodney Hood, the fourth-leading scorer missed his third straight game. Both Two-Way players, Jaron Blossomgame and Jalen Jones, were called on for heavy minutes despite not knowing all the verbiage yet.

    Frye jokingly asked one member of the media if he could provide a few minutes of relief.

    "Me being the oldest guy on this team, I love the fight of our team," Frye said. "I'm 35, this is my 14th year. We have six injuries, two guys from the G League, one rookie who's 19, another guy who's in his second year, but it's his first year, and every night we're coming out to compete.

    "Honestly, we're calling stuff out there that they've never even heard of, so it's like, I've seen these plays, I've seen these guys and it's just a lot for them, but I think they're fighting through it, they're trying to get better and I think that's the biggest thing about these guys. Every night, they're going to go out and fight."

    This was always going to be a tough year, one filled with growing pains. Still, it was hard to envision this level of strife. Sexton's night began with him hoisting shots on the court where Wade became a Hall-of-Famer. It ended with some advice from the sage veteran. Then came more from his locker mate Frye, who has also been in Sexton's shoes before.

    "I think you got to disassociate yourself from the game when you watch film and say, 'What's the best option on this play, what should I have done?' And then constantly learn," Frye said. "It's not always go on the court, 'I'm just going to shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot,' or 'I'm going to work on this pass.' It's like, mentally, you've got to slow the game down. Should we play fast? Should we play slow? Are we going to push it? If (Collin) has the ball, what are we doing? I think, again, that's also communication, but when you're tired and you're thinking. If you're thinking inside your head, you can't think outside. I talk a lot because I know what the hell I'm talking about, but I'm not thinking about anything. I've seen this, I've done this. I'm out there going, 'He's going left. He's doing this. He's doing this.' They're like, 'What? What are you saying? Oh, weak means left hand?' Then he's already gone.

    "I think for us, it's slowing the game down and being more consistent at playing the right way. The consistency is frustrating, but it's something you got to deal with and work on and I think we're getting better slowly. It's still fun. It's basketball, dude."


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    The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-28) will wrap up their three-game road trip with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks (10-24) on Saturday night.

    MIAMI -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-28) will wrap up their three-game road trip with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks (10-24) on Saturday night. 

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    Where: State Farm Arena

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs beat the Hawks 136-114 on Oct. 30. 

    Cavs minute: This is the final meeting against the Hawks this season. ... The Cavs are playing the second game of a road back-to-back, coming off a 118-94 loss to Miami on Friday. ... Jordan Clarkson is tied for the second-most 20-point games among bench players this season with 21. Only Los Angeles guard Lou Williams has more. ... Clarkson, averaging a career-high 17.1 points, has scored at least 20 in five of his last seven games and is averaging 21.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists since Dec. 12. ... With his 12-point performance against Miami, Cedi Osman has now tallied double figures in seven straight games, the longest streak of his young career. ... Cleveland has failed to crack the 100-point mark in five of its last six games. 

    Hawks minute: The Hawks are playing the second game of a back-to-back, coming off a 123-120 overtime win in Minnesota Friday night. ... The Hawks had a 20-point lead in the game. It was only the second time this season Atlanta has held a 20-point lead, with the other coming in the first matchup with the Cavs. ... Atlanta has won four of its last five games. ... Second-year player John Collins has recorded a double-double in 10 of his last 11 games. After missing the start of the season with an ankle injury, Collins leads the team with 18.6 points and 10 rebounds. ... Kent Bazemore has scored 20 points in five of his last eight games. ... Per NBA.com advanced stats, the Hawks lead the NBA in pace with 106.26 possessions per 48 minutes. ... More than two weeks ago, rookie Trae Young Young became the second-youngest player in NBA history to record five 20-point/10-assist games (LeBron James). Young accomplished the feat in 27 career games, the quickest since Damon Stoudamire in 1995-96 (11 games). ... Young also scored at least 10 points his first 13 contests this season, becoming the first Hawks rookie to score in double digits in each of his first 13 career games per the Elias Sports Bureau. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F Jaron Blossomgame

    C Larry Nance Jr. 

    G Alec Burks

    G Collin Sexton

    Hawks

    F Kent Bazemore

    F John Collins 

    C Dewayne Dedmon

    G Kevin Huerter

    G Trae Young


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    If that wasn't enough, it was Sexton's final showdown of the season against rookie classmate Trae Young.

    ATLANTA -- The stage was set for Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton.

    He was playing in Atlanta for the first time in his NBA career, about 20 miles from where he grew up in nearby Marietta, Georgia. Sexton had nearly 100 friends and family members in attendance, including his grandparents, who had a pair of seats about 10 rows up from the Cavaliers bench.

    If that wasn't enough, it was Sexton's final showdown of the season against rookie classmate Trae Young. 

    But Young, Vince Carter and the balanced Hawks spoiled Sexton's homecoming, beating the Cavs 111-108 on Saturday in a hard-fought game between two rebuilding teams.

    The loss extended Cleveland's losing skid to six games, matching the longest of the year. It also gave the Hawks the season series, as they beat the Cavs twice in three tries.

    Sexton snapped out of his offensive funk. He scored 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting to go with six assists. 

    His jumper with 3:28 remaining pulled Cleveland to within two, the closest it had gotten since midway through the third quarter.

    But then Sexton made a costly blunder on the next possession, fouling Young on a 3-pointer. Young made all three freebies and pushed Atlanta ahead by five. The rookie giveth and the rookie taketh.

    About two minutes later, Sexton had a chance at redemption.

    He was fouled with 57.9 seconds left and the Cavs trailing by one. Sexton calmly walked to the stripe while boos echoed through State Farm Arena. He split the pair of free throws, tying the game, but missing an opportunity to put Cleveland up by one and throw all the pressure on the Hawks. 

    Sexton tapped his chest, walked about 80 feet to the other end of the floor and stared up to the rafters. He was in disbelief that he -- an 87.6 percent free throw shooter -- split the pair with the game in his grasp. 

    "I was frustrated," Sexton said. "Wish I could take it back, but I can't. Just have to live with the results and push to the next game."

    The Cavs had a few more chances in the final minute. But they failed to secure a defensive rebound that led to John Collins' go-ahead put-back. Then came Alec Burks' turnover on a baseline inbounds. Despite Cleveland having two timeouts remaining, Burks panicked as his internal five-second clock ticked down and tossed a lob for Nance that was picked off.

    "I didn't know," Burks said when asked if he thought about calling timeout. "Just a bad play. Gotta have a short memory. Still time in the game, still had chances after that. It's a long game. It's 48 minutes and it was 47 at that time so moved on from that one and learn from it."

    After Deandre Bembry split a pair of free throws with 14.7 seconds left, putting the Hawks up by three and leaving the door slightly ajar, Jordan Clarkson missed a contested pull-up triple for the tie. 

    Cedi Osman scored a season-high 22 points for the Cavs, extending his double-figure scoring streak to a career-best eight games. 

    Alec Burks added 17 points while Clarkson poured in 15 off the bench. 

    Young and Carter led the way for Atlanta. They both scored 21 points. Collins added 14 to go with 12 rebounds.

    On this night, the road-weary and undermanned Cavs had plenty of reasons to be proud. But for Sexton -- and the others -- it was more about the plays they failed to make in crunch time. 

    The opportunity was there for Sexton's storybook homecoming. It bounced off the rim and dropped to the floor.  

    Missing Tristan 

    A Hawks-killer throughout his career, Tristan Thompson missed his 10th consecutive game with a sprained foot. 

    The Cavs sure missed him.

    With Thompson out and Ante Zizic a late scratch because of an achy knee that requires a little more rest, the Cavs were short on bigs. It was Nance and Channing Frye. 

    They lost the game in the non-Nance minutes. 

    Nance scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, his sixth double-double this season. Nance also dished out a team-high seven assists.

    Frye scored two points on 1-of-8 from the field in 12 minutes. The Cavs were outscored by 19 points during his time on the court.

    Early turning point

    The Cavs were leading by eight points with 17.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter. They forced another miss, a long-range 3-point try by Justin Anderson, and it looked like the Cavs were headed to the quarter break with a lead thanks to the quick start they needed playing the third and final game of a four-night road trip. 

    But the high-flying Collins stole the momentum away with a thunderous put-back dunk over the top of a pair of Cavaliers. 

    It got worse for Cleveland, as Jaron Blossomgame threw an ill-advised inbounds pass into DeAndre' Bembry's waiting arms. Bembry double-clutched before drilling a back-breaking 3-pointer. 

    The Hawks scored five points in the final two seconds to trim an eight-point lead to just three heading to the second quarter. 

    Up next 

    The Cavs will have four days before their next game. They will open a four-game homestand against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.


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    Then on Dec. 10 in Milwaukee, things changed. Sexton encountered his latest first-year challenge in a season filled with them.

    ATLANTA -- Collin Sexton was beginning to blossom. He had just reached double figures in scoring in his 18th straight game, accomplishing a feat that not even the great Kyrie Irving did during his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Then on Dec. 10 in Milwaukee, things changed. Sexton encountered his latest first-year challenge in a season filled with them.

    Tristan Thompson hobbled off the floor with a sprained foot, which has kept him out for the last 10 games. It's not a coincidence that Thompson's absence has coincided with Sexton's slide.

    "It's been different," Sexton admitted following Saturday's 111-108 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. "I mean Tristan, we have like pick and roll running it down to a T. It's been different. I know Tristan rolls and I throw the alley oop or the bounce pass and he shoots it left handed, stuff like that. Just trying to get used to playing with Channing (Frye) at the 5 and also Larry (Nance Jr.)."

    The pick and roll is all about chemistry. It's built over time, with countless reps both in games and on the practice floor -- a place where the Cavs haven't been much during this grueling stretch that has including two separate three-games-in-four-nights road trips.

    In the 10 games without Thompson, Sexton is averaging 12.4 points on 35.9 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from 3-point range to go with 2.9 assists.

    On Saturday night, during Sexton's homecoming game in Atlanta, playing there for the first time since high school, he scored 18 points. It was the second-highest tally since Thompson's injury -- the first positive sign in quite some time. 

    Asked recently about the correlation between Sexton's struggles and Thompson's absence, Drew couldn't really point to one thing specifically.

    "Good question. I don't know," Drew said. "I will say through the course of an NBA season, you're going to hit a bump in the road at some point. I think all players go through that. Rookies, veterans, they all experience that in an NBA season. It's just too long. There's going to be a point where you are going to hit a little snag. I don't know if Tristan's absence has anything to do with Collin or any of our other guys."

    There are plenty of logical explanations for Sexton's drop in production.

    It's possible he has slammed into the rookie wall. Sexton played in his 37th game Saturday night, four more than when he was a freshman at Alabama. He's already surpassed his minute load from last season and the Cavs have had to talk to him privately about not spending so much time in the gym so he can make sure his body gets rest and recovery time.

    Defenses have certainly adjusted to him, picking up tendencies on film and trying to exploit weaknesses. Atlanta even sprung a few traps against Sexton, which is a new tactic to force the ball out of his hands. Sexton looked caught off guard. He retreated toward center court before getting pushed up against the sideline.

    It's also notable that over the last 10 games, seven have been against opponents ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency.

    Calling it a shooting slump is as good an explanation of any. No player is immune. It was going to happen eventually. At 19 years old, Sexton wasn't going to keep piling up 20-point performances and shooting better than 50 percent from the field while canning multiple 3-pointers.

    Here's another explanation: The Cavs have been forced into a position they never wanted, putting too much on Sexton's shoulders too soon.

    The expectations were high to begin with, as Sexton was taken in the top 10 and turned out to be the centerpiece of the Kyrie Irving trade. That pressure only increased when Kevin Love went down four games into the season and non-stop injuries have followed. As a result, Sexton's role has changed, the ball is in his hands more and his usage has reached an uncomfortable level, one the Cavs didn't foresee at the start of the season.

    To his credit, Sexton has taken it all in stride.

    "Growing up I had a lot of pressure on me, so I just gotta keep it going," he said. "I feel like from back in the day to now I've been prepared for this stage. I feel like stuff that happened to me in the past helped me get to where I am today."

    But everything seems to be catching up with him lately. And it's been tough to adjust to changing lineups and different bigs each night, especially given how much better Sexton has been when sharing the court with Thompson.

    According to NBA.com stats, the Nance-Sexton tandem has logged 650 minutes. The Cavs' offensive rating is a pedestrian 100.2 and the defensive rating is a lousy 114.7. That's a net rating of -14.5.

    This isn't a knock against Nance. He simply brings a different skill set than Thompson and he's asked to do different things within the offense. There's also a level of comfort Sexton seems to have with Thompson's rolling more so than with Nance's popping and playmaking and the space it can create.

    The individual numbers point to Sexton being a better fit alongside Thompson as well.

    With Thompson on the court, Sexton is averaging 10.5 points on 45.5 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from beyond the arc in 19.9 minutes.

    With Thompson off the floor, Sexton is averaging 7.6 points on 39.4 percent from the field and 27.0 percent from beyond the arc in 16.1 minutes.

    Some of it is happenstance, of course, just like so many other numbers. But there's a clear difference in shot percentage by distance in those on/off metrics as well.

    I pulled out the numbers for Thompson, who isn't always keen on analytics. We discussed them at length in the locker room at State Farm Arena before he got on the second bus. I asked him if he had any explanation for Sexton's recent dip in production.

    "Look up my screen assists throughout my career," Thompson said with a smile. "That will give you your answer."

    Thompson said he tries to screen in a way to give Sexton a clear line of sight. Thompson has learned over time where Sexton wants to go, where the screens need to be set and how to carve out an extra sliver of space that can make the difference between a contested and uncontested jumper.

    Things can be fuzzy for 19-year-olds, especially with complex defenses designed to force them to hesitate, overthink and question their own reads. Thompson, one of the league's best screen-setters, is currently tied with Utah's massive center Rudy Gobert in screen assists per game, averaging 5.7. Thompson has 153 total screen assists despite missing nearly three weeks.

    That's all the evidence anyone needs to recognize the impact.

    Sexton gets cleaner looks when Thompson is out there. Defenders can't get around him, they have to honor his rolling to the basket and need to keep bodies attached so he can't pulverize opponents on the offensive glass. Beyond everything else he brings, that's the skill the Cavs have missed most.

    "I will be back soon," Thompson said. "Help the young fella out again. Get that chemistry back."

    Saturday night marked the final game of 2018 for the Cavs. They won't play again until Wednesday, opening a four-game homestand against the Miami Heat, the team that most recently put the clamps on Sexton.

    That means his first season is nearly half-over. The numbers aren't pretty. A chart floating around on Twitter depicting how rookies have fared in Total Points Added, combining offensive and defensive impact, isn't favorable to Cleveland's youngster. Other numbers, such as ESPN's Real Plus-Minus, are ugly as well.

    Sexton ranks last among point guards, more than two full points worse than Atlanta rookie Trae Young, who is also looked at unfavorably.

    The RPM stat is a player's estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. It takes into account teammates, opponents and other additional factors. Sexton is No. 464. Again, dead last.

    It's still too early to make any sweeping conclusions. Just a few weeks ago, it appeared Sexton had pushed himself into the Rookie-of-the-Year conversation and shown major strides. Then came his troublesome three-week stretch that has included three single-digit scoring games, one better-than-50-percent-shooting night and a bunch of pick-me-up words from Dwyane Wade, who is a CAA client like Sexton, and Mike Conley.

    "I feel like it's going alright," Sexton said of his rookie season. "I just gotta continue to learn. First season, so I gotta learn faster. I'm playing a lot so I learn on the fly, and just make sure I don't get down on myself. I always stay uplifted and just continue to be me."

    That's been much easier for Sexton when Thompson is out there with him.


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    Dutiful in his embrace of his demanding father's lessons, derelict in his handling of the biggest scandal of his Ohio State years. Urban Meyer will go out swinging in his last game.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - A dollar for a home run. Fifty cents for an RBI.

    That was the lowly pay scale offered by Frank Urban Meyer III's late father, "Bud" whose nickname was not coined for his companionable ways with his children.

    Although the younger Meyer would become one of college football's greatest coaches, the lasting lessons were not in his successes. They were in the defeats and disappointments which, weaponized by his father's sharp tongue, preceded them.

    Three strikes and you're out of a ride

    When Meyer was a senior at Ashtabula St. John High School he took a called third strike in a critical game, and a furious Bud refused to drive him home. Urban ran the eight miles instead.

    As a middle infielder in the low minors with the Atlanta Braves, Meyer made error upon error because an arm injury hampered his throwing. He hit only .182. He wanted to quit.

    "If you do, don't come home," Bud said.  "Be sure to call your mother at Christmas."

    The pain in his brain

    No pain, no gain. No trauma, no drama.

    Urban didn't quit then.

    The last chapter in his storied career presumably  comes on New Year's night in the Rose Bowl when Ohio State plays Washington.

    It will be Meyer's second retirement after leaving Florida following the 2010 season.

    It is something he is forced to do, not because of the repercussions of the Zach Smith spousal abuse scandal or Meyer's lies about it, but by pain from a brain cyst that flares in his head like a jagged streak of lightning under the stress of games.

    Hard taskmasters, hard lessons 

    Meyer clearly failed two of his most important tests off the field in neither disciplining nor telling the truth about his rogue assistant.

    On the field, however, he is Bud's son, applying his boyhood lessons to his players as strenuously as did his father to him.

    Players vomited into trash cans in conditioning drills at Bowling Green.

    They crawled on hands and knees down the ice-crusted mud of a practice field at 5 in the morning as Meyer sought to "change the culture" at Ohio State.

    They were pitted against each other in now outlawed "Bloody Tuesday" practices after sloppy games.

    But Meyer is hardly alone in sports in coping with a Darwinian upbringing.

    Meyer's great rival, Alabama coach Nick Saban, had a father who was demonstrative enough to take his son into the bowels of the earth, down in the dark to the mine tunnel where he worked. Nick's choice was between coal or college. Depths or heights. 

    George Steinbrenner turned to buying a basketball team, the Cleveland Pipers, in a renegade league and later to purchasing the New York Yankees because he could never be the success his domineering father was in track and field or in the storm-tossed world of Great Lakes shipping.

    Stunted praise

    Even championships didn't bring unconditional love for the sons of alpha males.  

    After the first of his four victories in the Indianapolis 500, A.J. Foyt, a Texas longhorn bull of a figure, said to his father, "I did good, didn't I, Daddy?"

    Said his father, grudgingly, "Well, I guess you done. . . OK."

    Meyer built underdog Florida to a peak of readiness and routed Ohio State to win the 2006 national championship. Afterward, he found Bud in the stands.

    "It's about time you did that," his father said.

    Meyer did it twice more, at Florida again and at Ohio State.

    Before Meyer goes home presumably for good, his last game will be a reminder of what he was taught. His players will go out there, at the edge of the country and the end of his career, and, just as he is bold in big games, they will follow his lead and swing hard.


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    A second-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, McCaw will take Cleveland's final roster spot, which has been open since the start of the season.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Golden State Warriors declined to match the Cleveland Cavaliers' offer sheet for restricted free agent Patrick McCaw. 

    Golden State needed to respond by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday night and chose to let the clock run out, giving the disgruntled third-year swingman what he seemingly wanted: a chance for a bigger role with another team. 

    A second-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, McCaw will take Cleveland's final roster spot, which has been open since the start of the season. 

    McCaw signed a two-year, $6 million offer sheet on Friday afternoon. According to sources, the deal is non-guaranteed and the Cavs won't have to make any decision on McCaw's immediate future with the team until Jan. 7. If he stays beyond that date, McCaw will receive a pro-rated $3 million deal for this season. McCaw's contract is non-guaranteed for $3 million in 2019-20.

    Because of the timing of the contract signing and CBA regulations, the Cavs will not be able to flip him in a trade prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, a source said.

    After having Sunday off, the Cavs return to the practice floor on Monday and are expecting McCaw to be there. His playing status for Wednesday night against Miami is still to be determined. Cleveland wants to see what kind of shape McCaw is in first, as he has been away from the Warriors because of a lengthy standoff.

    Given the more recent injuries to Rodney Hood (Achilles), Ante Zizic (knee) and David Nwaba (ankle), along with Kevin Love (foot) and Tristan Thompson (foot), the Cavs internally discussed some G League options with 10-day contracts. Ultimately they decided to take a swing on McCaw, believing he had the right combination of talent, experience and upside to fill out the roster and help them in the short term. 

    The Cavs made an offer higher than the one he reportedly turned down this summer, hoping it would be prohibitive enough to Golden State, which sits high above the luxury tax threshold and only has one roster spot available. The gamble paid off. 

    McCaw, 23, averaged 4.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 57 games last season.

    He has appeared in 21 postseason games over his first two years, averaging 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists. 


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    But before officially turning the page, McCaw had a few questions to answer first. Watch video

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Wearing new threads, that of his former NBA Finals rival, new Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Patrick McCaw spoke with excitement about the next chapter of his career.

    But before officially turning the page, McCaw had a few questions to answer first.

    Like, why would a 23-year-old former second-round pick want to leave the Golden State Warriors, the league's premier organization that took a chance on him and turned him into a two-time NBA champion? 

    "That's a tough question," McCaw said following his first practice with the Cavaliers Monday afternoon. "I loved playing in Golden State. My teammates, the coaches, it was nothing...really nothing stands out to me to say I didn't want to go back. Think it was just a personal thing where I was just like, I think it was time for me to move on for a new opportunity within myself.

    "Nothing against Golden State, front office, coaches, players, the environment, it had nothing to do with any of that. It's just a personal thing and I wanted a new opportunity to move on. I can't say anything other than it was all me. Nothing against Golden State. I just wanted to move on."

    The Warriors wanted McCaw back. They reportedly offered him a two-year, $5.2 million deal this off-season.

    Their plan, according to those around the team, was to make McCaw part of the organization's youth movement, giving him a permanent spot in the rotation. As The Athletic's Anthony Slater pointed out Sunday, the Warriors even kept McCaw's name placard above his old locker.

    Golden State never expected things to turn out this way, with McCaw -- a restricted free agent -- essentially holding out, being away from the team and inking an offer sheet with someone else. But that's how it all ended, with the Cavs signing him to an offer sheet on Friday and the Warriors letting the clock tick away, giving him the opportunity he wanted to officially join the Cavaliers.

    So what was McCaw looking for that the champs couldn't provide? 

    "That's a good question. I couldn't even give you an answer," McCaw said. "I think, for myself, I took a different approach to this whole situation. I was uncertain if I would get an offer sheet or anything. But being positive in myself and knowing something would come. I can't really look back on the last two months and how I handled the whole situation, I can only continue to focus on now and the future. That's all I'm waiting for."

    McCaw will get that chance for the injury-riddled Cavs that are desperate for healthy bodies. Cleveland has used 16 different starting lineups this season and is still without Rodney Hood (Achilles), Kevin Love (foot), David Nwaba (knee), Ante Zizic (knee) and Tristan Thompson (foot).

    Both Thompson and Hood were able to practice on Monday, a promising sign as they both inch closer to a return. Still, depth isn't a bad thing and the Cavs are thrilled to add McCaw to the mix, someone who brings energy, defensive tenacity and versatility. 

    "I'm just a basketball player," he said when asked about his natural position. "I feel I can guard multiple positions and handle the ball. I can defend. I can shoot. I don't really look at myself as a 1, 2, or 3, just consider myself a basketball player."

    During his time away, while waiting for an offer and keeping hope when his immediate future looked cloudy, McCaw worked with his dad back at home. They focused on conditioning, strength and shooting, getting numerous shots up daily. McCaw also stayed connected to the game by studying. 

    In his first practice Monday, Cavs head coach Larry Drew was surprised at how easily McCaw was able to get up and down the floor. The Cavs are going to try to work in him slowly, not cram too much information in such a short period, but Drew expects McCaw in the lineup on Wednesday. 

    McCaw didn't hesitate when asked if that's realistic. 

    "Yeah, I'm ready," he said. "If I don't play, whenever the coaches feel like I can play, I will be ready whenever.

    "Excited for a new opportunity. Excited to meet my teammates, new coaches, get a feel for everything that Cleveland has to offer. A little nervous, but it's basketball at the end of the day." 

    Representing this new beginning, and because his old No. 0 is taken by All-Star Kevin Love, McCaw will wear the No. 3 in Cleveland. 

    After a bumpy few months and an incredibly unique way of handling restricted free agency, McCaw finally has clarity.

    The end result: McCaw goes from a team with title aspirations to one with the worst record in the league. He goes from getting guaranteed money from the Warriors to a non-guaranteed two-year deal worth $6 million in Cleveland. 

    Even with that being his new reality, McCaw wouldn't change anything about how he handled this process. 

    "I feel great. I bet on myself and stayed positive," McCaw said. "A lot of guys in my position, being 22 or 23 years old, probably would never take that chance because they don't know what the outcome could possibly be. I know I had injuries and things like that last season and I've just been continuing to work to get better and constantly make strides within myself.

    "That's how I've always been. Just focusing on myself, getting better within myself and telling myself I can be great at this game."


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    Saint Nick saved the season ... again.

    The Philadelphia Eagles were outside of the playoff picture when quarterback Carson Wentz went out with a season-ending back injury, but the man they call Saint Nick saved the season ... again. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles powered the Eagles to the playoffs and many are saying he might be a better fit with the team and its offensive system. However, Wentz had an MVP-caliber season last year and has proven he can lead this team as well. Who is a better fit? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    The Eagles were floundering when Wentz was on the field in 2018. Now, they are in a position to defend their title in the playoffs. This is coming a year after the team won the Super Bowl without Wentz. There is no argument that Foles is a better fit with the Eagles.

    The team is 4-1 with him as the quarterback this year and the offense is moving a little more efficiently. With Foles at the helm, Philadelphia has topped 28 points four of the last five games. Before that stretch, the team only eclipsed 28 points once. He makes better reads and has been more accurate with the ball. He runs this team better.

    Why the Eagles should play Foles

    Any young player is going to regress, and that's what happened to Wentz this year. Because of that, they forget that he had this offense running like a Ferrari in 2017 during an MVP-worthy campaign before he tore his ACL. 

    In 13 games last year, Wentz led the NFL in QBR and had 33 touchdowns. He was piling up numbers and the team was also winning, going 11-2 with him as a starter. Foles is arguably the greatest backup quarterback ever after last year's Super Bowl run, but Wentz has proven he can guide this team with huge success. He is still the better fit with the team.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    Can Alabama be beaten?

    The college football season is set to close with one heck of a finale. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers are meeting in the College Football National Championship Game for the third time in four years, setting up an epic rubber match to see who has been the best team in that time span. Some think Alabama will win with their explosive offense. Others think Clemson has the defense and offense to take the Crimson Tide down. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    This might be a huge surprise to some, but Alabama is right where 99 percent of college football experts thought they would be at this point in the season: the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Sarcasm aside, the Crimson Tide have been arguably the best team in the country all season long and went undefeated in the strongest conference. They had the highest point differential in the nation this year, beating opponents by an average of 31.4 points per game.

    Leading the way for Alabama is Tua Tagovailoa, whose rocket arm and country-leading 13.4 yards per pass attempt has given the team an unstoppable dimension. No one can stop the bruising running game and big-play passing game the Tide has. Throw in the Tide's always-elite defense and you have a team that can't be beaten.

    Alabama might be the team everyone expects to win, but Clemson has had a quietly dominating season of their own. The Tigers went undefeated leading up to the National Championship Game and was right behind Alabama in average point differential, finishing second in the country with a 30.6-point margin of victory per game. All of this while dealing with a quarterback change from a national championship starter to a talented freshman.

    What will separate Clemson from Alabama will be the defense. The Tigers are the second-best defense in the entire nation, only giving up 12.9 points per game. The last time the Crimson Tide faced a top defense was the SEC Championship against Georgia, where they struggled until a mid-game quarterback change put them over the top. Clemson has the talent to stuff the run and put pressure on Tagovailoa, which is something Alabama has not faced often this year.

    The Tigers are going to play like it's 2016 and win the Natty.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    More than two months later, the Cavaliers still don't have any answers when it comes to defending opposing point guards. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Way back on Opening Night, Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry torched the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 27 points to go with eight assists while making 10 of his 12 shots.

    Call it a precursor of what was to come this season.

    More than two months later, the Cavaliers still have few answers when it comes to defending opposing lead guards.

    Can new addition Patrick McCaw help change that?

    "I can see him doing some of that, absolutely," head coach Larry Drew said when asked if McCaw would get a chance to defend high-level backcourt players. "What we've done, against scoring point guards like Mike Conley, like Trae Young, we did switch our matchups and go bigger on both guys. That seemed to have some effect."

    Since sliding into the starting lineup for an injured Rodney Hood, Alec Burks has taken over that defensive role.

    Burks, who is 6-foot-6, helped pester Mike Conley into a 15-point, 6-of-16 shooting night last week. Burks' combination of length and athleticism bothered Hawks rookie Young early in Saturday's game, forcing Young to get yanked after struggling in the first three minutes. Young rebounded, started hunting switches and finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the field.

    McCaw, listed at 6-foot-7 with long arms, brings some of those same characteristics as Burks.

    "Some point guards have a problem with size. I see Patrick in that same role. I think he has that ability to play a smaller point guard," Drew said. "He really defends well on the ball. He's athletic and he has long arms and he gets his hands on a lot of balls defensively. You can't play with the ball in front of him. He's got a knack for coming up with it.

    "I really like his on-ball defense, because he has long arms and he really gets down in a stance. I saw something (at practice) that I was very happy to see from a defensive standpoint, that we have been struggling with this year. He certainly has some tangibles that really excite us."

    Drew compared McCaw to Corey Brewer. McCaw said he doesn't have a specific position. He called himself a "basketball player," one that brings the necessary tools to play -- and defend -- multiple spots.

    But defending point guards is where the Cavs need the most help. Even with some decent performances recently, they rank 27th in points allowed to the position. The only teams worse: Atlanta, Detroit and Washington.

    Rookie Collin Sexton is at the center of the issue. Statistically, he has been one of the league's worst defensive players.

    According to ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric -- a player's estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions -- Sexton ranks 465th out of 466 total players. 

    With Sexton on the floor, opponents boast an offensive rating of 123.1. For perspective, the Warriors' No. 1 ranked offense has a rating of 112.9. With Sexton off the floor, the offensive rating drops significantly to 114.4.

    Sexton admitted recently that adjusting on defense has been a challenge. The amount of film work required and detailed scouting reports is a change from college.

    "You have to know different teams' plays," Sexton said. "As a point guard I have to know what they like to run and what positions, so I have to do more of watching film before the game."

    Cleveland has tried hiding him on defense. Against Memphis last week, Sexton was matched up against Garrett Temple. Sexton primarily guarded Rodney McGruder a few nights later in the Miami matchup, with the Cavs not wanting to expose Sexton against Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson. On Saturday night, Sexton spent most of his defensive possessions against rookie Kevin Huerter, who was the lowest-scoring perimeter player in the Hawks' starting group that night.

    Having McCaw gives the Cavs another option on defense, letting them continue the same strategy of keeping Sexton off opposing point guards.

    Perhaps McCaw will even help solve this big problem, one that became evident at the start of the season and has only gotten worse from there. 


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    The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29) will open a four-game homestand on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat (17-18).

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29) will open a four-game homestand on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat (17-18).

    When: 7 p.m.

    Where: Quicken Loans Arena

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs lost to the Heat 118-94 on Friday night in Miami. 

    Cavs minute: The Cavs have lost six straight games, matching their longest losing skid this season. ... Cleveland is 6-1 in its last seven home games against the Heat. ... Alec Burks (399) will play in his 400th career game Wednesday night. ... Burks is averaging 13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists over the last four games. ... During Saturday's loss against Atlanta, Larry Nance Jr. became the first NBA player since 1973-74 (when steals were first tracked) to put up at least 18 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, four steals while shooting at least 87.5 percent in a single game. ... Cedi Osman has scored in double figures in a career-best eight consecutive games. He is averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32.3 minutes during this current streak. ... Collin Sexton has scored in double figures in 30 games so far, which is the third-most among rookies.

    Heat minute: Miami hasn't been above .500 since the fifth game of the season. ... The Heat went 9-5 in the month of December. ... Josh Richardson has connected on at least one 3-point field goal in a career-best 17 straight games. ... Justise Winslow has scored at least 20 points in three of his last four games. ... Miami has used 15 different starting lineups through 35 games this season, which is the second-most behind the Cavaliers. ... Miami is 11-1 this season when holding opponents to under 100 points. ...  Dwyane Wade is one 3-pointer away from 500 in his career. His next made triple will allow him to join Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to record at least 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 800 blocks and 500 3-point field goals made.

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Jaron Blossomgame

    F Cedi Osman

    C Larry Nance Jr.

    G Alec Burks

    G Collin Sexton

    Heat

    F Rodney McGruder

    F James Johnson

    C Hassan Whiteside

    G Josh Richardson

    G Justise Winslow


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    Thompson, who has missed the previous 10 games because of a sprained foot, practiced on Monday afternoon, didn't have any setbacks and was able to participate in Wednesday's shootaround.

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson said he is available to play on Wednesday night, as the team opens a four-game homestand against the Miami Heat. 

    Thompson, who has missed the previous 10 games because of a sprained foot, practiced on Monday and was able to participate in shootaround this morning.

    "It feels good," Thompson said. "Obviously rehab is good and whatnot, but after a while it gets boring. It's better to be on the court playing with your guys and competing, so I'm glad to be back.

    "If my number's called, I'll be ready to go. If it's not, I'll be the best cheerleader I can be."

    The Cavs went 2-8 without Thompson, who is averaging a double-double this season. They are currently in the midst of a six-game losing skid, matching the longest of the season. 

    "Guys are playing hard every night," Thompson said. "The Miami game we competed in the first half, kind of just ran out of energy because we were short-handed. Atlanta, guys played hard. Of course we had a couple mental breakdowns that cost us the game. As long as we learn from those mistakes, we can take something from that game."

    On Monday, head coach Larry Drew said Thompson would be in position to play if he didn't have any setbacks following practice. Drew also said Thompson and Rodney Hood, who is still dealing with Achilles soreness, are "neck and neck" in their recovery. 

    Both Thompson and Hood are officially listed as questionable.  

    With Thompson sidelined, Drew used Larry Nance Jr., Channing Frye and Ante Zizic as the starting center depending on matchups. Unless Thompson is on a tight minutes restriction in his first game back, he will likely slide right back into his old starting role. 

    When the injury first occurred on Dec. 10 in Milwaukee, the Cavs believed Thompson could miss a month. But he's always been a quick healer and never been one to take more time away than what he needs.

    "I'm never going to ask the coach for a night off," Thompson said. "I'm not going to do that. They've got to staple me in a chair and not have my jersey nearby and hide my shoes if they want me to sit out a game. That was never in my character."

    The timing of Thompson's return couldn't be better for the Cavs. Drew admitted Monday that he needs healthy bodies after using nine or 10 guys for much of the team's recent road trip.

    The Cavs will already be short one big, playing without backup center Zizic in a matchup against Miami 7-footer Hassan Whiteside on Wednesday. Utah's mammoth center Rudy Gobert comes to Cleveland on Friday and MVP candidate Anthony Davis makes his lone visit Saturday. 


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    Some feel the lack of a conference title and weak schedule should have left Notre Dame on the outside looking in. Watch video

    Notre Dame was blown out of the College Football Playoffs, and some people are fuming that the committee wasted a valuable playoff spot on a school that didn't deserve it. The team finished undefeated while sporting the ninth-ranked defense in the country and many felt the Fighting Irish deserved to be in the hunt. Others feel the lack of a conference title and weak schedule should've had Notre Dame on the outside looking in, with a more deserving team taking the spot -- and history is on their side. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    Say what you will about Notre Dame, but the team finished undefeated while playing the top universities in the country. The Fighting Irish's wins against Michigan, Stanford and Syracuse -- all top-15 teams at the time of their respective games -- are proof that Notre Dame belonged in the playoff.

    People are crying over the lack of a conference championship like it is the end all, be all of determining eligibility. Notre Dame was one of the four top schools in the country. They just had a bad day against Clemson. There is no arguing that. But they deserved that spot.

    Need proof Notre Dame didn't belong in the playoff? Look no further than the scoreboard.

    The Fighting Irish managed to play fewer games and still gain a berth in the College Football Playoff. Every other qualified team had one more monumental test just to be considered for the honor, while Notre Dame sat at home enjoying Friday and Saturday like every other schmuck in the country.

    Just because Notre Dame is Notre Dame, it gets special consideration. Brand equity shouldn't be a requisite for qualification. The Fighting Irish should've been left out of the bracket. The blowout loss against Clemson is further evidence that the Fighting Irish were never serious contenders for a national title.

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