CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cavaliers acquisition of center Jarrett Allen from Brooklyn Wednesday night may have tipped their hand at their plans for their future.
But if you think that’s all-she-wrote for the Cavs current big-man from UCONN, Andre Drummond would like to have a word with you.
While Drummond’s future in a wine and gold uniform remains to be seen, the ninth-year man posted another ho-hum double-double leading the way the Cavs to snap a three-game skid with a 106-103 win over the New York Knicks.
“The trade, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about that,” Drummond said. “If I do get traded I don’t control that either. I’m just here to play basketball with whatever jersey I have on.”
Drummond’s 33-points tied a carer-high. His performance on a nightly basis has becoming as customary as a wintry mix in on a mid-January night.
“When he plays with that determination and that force, there’s not many people that can stop him one-on-one,” Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff said.
Drummond’s historic night comes on the heels of a trade that saw the Cavaliers land his heir apparent, a moment that’s not lost on the two-time All-Star.
“The optics are obvious, but Dre and I have developed a great relationship up to the point,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s a relationship that’s built on trust and honestly. Dre knows his worth. You obviously see what he’s capable of.
What he’s been capable of is hoisting what’s left of the depleted Cavaliers on the back of his 6’10” 279-pound frame and willing them through to a win, as evidence Friday night.
On an evening where the Knicks bench outscored the Cavs reserves 37-8, the wide discrepancy only highlighted the fact that the wine and gold didn’t have much of a bench.
“We only played with eight or nine guys,” Drummond said. “It’s lot that I had to carry.”
But he’s been up to the challenge all year. Friday night the Cavs were without Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Love, Matthew Dellavedova and Dylan Windler.
Fortunately, Allen and Taurean Prince, acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Nets arrive to provide the Wine and Gold with some much needed reinforcements.
“I was happy about it. I was definitely sad to see Dante go,” Drummond said. “Sad to see those guys go but happy to see those fresh guys come in who are very, very good players.”
Until they step on the floor, Drummond will assume the scoring role. With it comes teams scheming directly for him.
“The more eyes that are on him it opens up cuts, it peons out kick-out threes when he’s dominating the game because he draws so much attention.”
Drummond commanded a lot of attention. The Knicks routinely sent multiple defenders his direction. But the extra attention provided the other four Cavaliers on the floor with opportunities to make the Knicks pay.
Friday night, they did.
All five starters scored in double figures. Cedi Osman chimed in with 25 points, Larry Nance Jr. added 14 points and Damyean Dotson and Isaac Okoro added 13 apiece.
“For us, offensively we did struggle for a little while. It’s early in the year we’re still trying to ind ourself and find out what kind of team we are. We don’ have a lot of our leading scores right now,” Drummond said. “Defensively is where we hang our hat at. If we stop teams, there’s not going to be points on the board.”
Defense in the third quarter has been a sore spot for the Cavaliers at times this year. But through the first ten minutes of the third quarter, the Cavs held the Knicks in check. Big blocks from Nance Jr. and Okoro highlighted their efforts on the defensive end.
The wine and gold led 80-68 with 3:15 left in the third, but New York went on a 16-0 run that stretched into the fourth quarter and that lead quickly evaporated.
It was Osman, Okoro. Drummond and Dotson that got the Cavaliers back on track.
Up by one, Julis Randle committed a clear path foul a with 1:19 left that gave the Cavs two shots and the ball.
Dotson connected on two free throws to give the Cavs a 100-97 lead.
He doubled down on the extra possession and blew past RJ Barrett to give the Cavs a 5-point lead.
As the Cavs closed it out, the Knicks went looking for either Randle or Barrett.
Drummond was waiting.
“I knew they were going to go to him to close the game out. Because we were having our hat so hard on Julius Randle. So the next best option was RJ Barrett,” Drummond said. “I was just floating around in the back. As soon as he came off that loop cut I saw the opportunity to go for the steal and I took it”
The Cavaliers are now 6-7 and have plenty of time to get their new teammates acclimated to their brand of basketball. Their next two games against the Wizards were postponed in accordance with the league’s Health and Safety Protocols.
Their next game? Brooklyn on January 20th.