After watching the last handful of games, it seems as if Larry Nance Jr. has found his shot again for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers sit at 5-7, there are many different excuses you can throw out there as to why they are now 5-7 after starting out 3-0. The injury bug? Not having enough bodies? Just not good enough?
I think it is pretty safe to say that injuries are the number one reason the Cavs have cooled off after such a hot start to the season. I mean, their injury report night in and night out is a pretty hefty one to say the least.
Darius Garland (right shoulder sprain) has missed the past six games, and Collin Sexton (left ankle sprain) has missed the past four games, and Kevin Love (right calf strain/reaggravation) could reportedly still be sidelined through this month. Plus, Andre Drummond was out on Tuesday because of an Achilles contusion, albeit it was a back-to-back, too.
Nonetheless, how can you expect to win games when your entire core is sidelined if you’re the Cavs?
Coming into the new season, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemingly wanted to instill two things when it came to Cleveland’s efforts game-to-game: grit and a defensive mindset. So far, despite their record, the Cavs have lived up to those terms (for the most part), and Cleveland has the league’s top defensive rating, even.
In the midst of all of these injuries, though, Bickerstaff has asked multiple guys to step up and take on larger roles and expand their minutes night-in and night-out. One of those guys? Larry Nance Jr., clearly, who has taken over at the starting 4 with Love out.
The Cavs have not only needed Nance Jr. on the defensive end, but way more on the offensive end than they have in years past. After a pretty tough start to the season offensively for Nance Jr., he has found his stride.
Thankfully, Nance Jr. has found his shot again for the Cavs.
Jr. is averaging 10.2 points per game this season on 48.5 percent from the field, with most of those numbers coming from a significant boost in the last handful of games, really three of the past four.
On Jan. 7 at the Memphis Grizzlies, Nance Jr. shot 100 percent from the field, scoring 18 points on seven-of-seven shooting, including going four-of-four from three-point range. That performance, in terms of both shooting clips, was a historic one in Cavs franchise history, too, per Cavs Notes.
He has followed that up with games of 17, 13 and just six points in Tuesday’s contest versus the Utah Jazz. Ironically, Nance Jr. had one of his worst games of the season shooting-wise last night at two-for-11 from the field, but that marks the first time he shot below 50 percent in the last five games.
If the Cavs want to be able to have any success at all with all these starters and rotational players injured, Nance Jr. is going to play a very important role and will have to step up big-time until the Cavs get some of their guys back. Granted, his all-around play has been crucial, anyway, and he currently is leading the league in steals, and is second on the Cavs in assists per game at 3.7.
The shot is again, key, however, and Nance Jr. being able to set screens and at times flow back to the three-point line for spot-ups is something he has been doing more and more of lately it seems, and it is something that I still would like to see even more of. He’s now shooting 42.2 percent from deep in 2020-21, even after a rough patch.
Again, when the Cavs are this injured, the offense comes at a premium. When a guy like Nance Jr. gets things clicking, it can make all the difference in a competitive ballgame or a blowout, though.
Albeit hopefully Garland/Sexton can get back soon enough.