CLEVELAND -- It did not take very long for forward Larry Nance Jr. and point guard Jordan Clarkson to earn the trust of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coaching staff following last Thursday’s trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In less than a week, Nance and Clarkson have gone from two of the four new guys in town to critical end-of-game players who do what they can to impact winning, which is exactly what happened in Tuesday’s 120-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“You didn’t know because they were playing for another team, but from everybody I talked to in the Lakers organization, B-Shaw, Luke Walton, Brian West, Jerry West, they all just said, ‘Those are two great kids. They’re fearless, they play hard, and they play well.’” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.
“Clarkson taking that big three at the end of the game, making that big shot, and in Boston the same way, making two big threes to open up the game, just for those young guys to come in here, in an atmosphere like this and play hard, it’s amazing. We used those guys down the stretch, and they produced. Just seeing that, they’re going to grow a lot this year.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers get redemption win over Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of All-Star break
In just his second game with the Cavaliers, Clarkson knocked down six of his 10 shots from the field, and his lone three-pointer of the game came essentially on the run in the waning minutes of the game.
With the Cavaliers holding a 108-100 advantage with just 3:23 to play in the fourth quarter, forward Larry Nance Jr. hustled after and batted out an offensive rebound toward the three-point line, where Clarkson caught the ball, and in one motion, buried the triple.
Then, with 11.6 seconds left in the game, guard J.R. Smith chased down a defensive rebound, and while falling out of bounds along the end line, hoisted a pass three-quarters of the way down the court. Nance sprinted after the ball and threw down a dunk that made it a seven-point game.
Nance’s dunk gave him 13 points on the game. Then, of Nance’s nine rebounds, eight were on the offensive end of the floor. Also, Nance handed out two assists, stole one pass and blocked two shots in the redemption victory over a Thunder team that blew out the Cavaliers, 148-124, two weeks ahead of the roster reconstruction.
“It was important,” Lue said of Nance’s activity. “They did the same thing in the first half, but I thought Larry was very good with (Steven) Adams. He was active. He had eight offensive rebounds himself. I know Adams had 12, which kept them in the game because they had 18 offensive rebounds, but I just thought Larry did some great things, rolling to the basket, making the right pass, offensive rebounds, was great defensively.”
Although there is much work to be done between now and the end of the regular season, the Cavaliers feel that with Nance and Clarkson embracing the opportunity to play on a contending team after three years with the struggling Lakers, the work will get done the right way.
“They’ve been around, but they know how to play the game,” Lue said. “I think when you add new pieces, if they have good basketball IQ, it’s easy to pick things up, easy to play together and feed off each other. They’ve done that since they’ve been here, so we’ve just got to keep growing.”