CLEVELAND — Jordan Clarkson isn’t going to win the NBA’s Sixth Man award — that honor will go to the Clippers’ Lou Williams, Celtics’ Terry Rozier or Rockets’ Eric Gordon — but the Cavaliers’ reserve appears to have found his niche in the league.
“I just try to do my job,” Clarkson said Monday prior to a 126-101 win over the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena. “I know what I’m here for and what I have to do. I’m taking the game and being a spark off the bench. That’s my job and that’s what I’m paid to do.”
Clarkson entered the Raptors game averaging a career-high 17.0 points, which ranked third in the league among reserves behind Williams (20.2), the Timberwolves’ Derrick Rose (18.0) and Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie (17.3). He also hit his 500th career 3-pointer Friday against the Heat.
“I’m definitely confident in what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve been coming off the bench for three years now. I’ve kind of fallen into that role as a bench scorer.”
After being acquired from the Lakers, Clarkson struggled mightily in the 2018 postseason while playing on a Cleveland team led by LeBron James. He rarely passed, often dribbled with his head down in an attempt to create his own shot and committed a number of careless turnovers.
This season, on a much less talented team that needs his scoring — even if there are still occasions when he shoots too much or too soon — he’s thrived.
“Last year people had a lot of misjudgments because I had a few bad games in the playoffs and stuff like that,” Clarkson said. “My whole thing was to come back and prove people wrong and come here and attack it like I do.”
Cleveland coach Larry Drew praised Clarkson’s offensive output, but wants the 26-year-old to exert more energy at the defensive end.
“He is who he is,” Drew said. “He’s a scorer. He can score in bunches.
“I continue to challenge him (defensively),” he added. “Being a scorer is going to get you points, but you’ve got to get something done at the other end, too.”
Cavs center Larry Nance Jr. missed the Toronto game and his availability is considered “day to day” after suffering a rib contusion Friday in Miami, while guard Matthew Dellavedova missed his second straight game while in the league’s concussion protocol program. Big men Tristan Thompson (foot) and John Henson (wrist) remained sidelined.
Cleveland power forward Kevin Love played against the Raptors, but will sit out tonight in Philadelphia because the team currently doesn’t want him to play in back-to-back games after missing 50 games due to a foot injury. The Cavs only have one more set of
back-to-back games this season, on April 4 in Sacramento and April 5 at Golden State.
For Toronto, backup point guard Fred VanFleet was out due to a thumb injury.
Threes for all
The Cavs entered Monday having made at least 10 3-pointers in 12 straight games, including a season-high 19 in Miami.
Cleveland began the night averaging 14.8 3-pointers per game, which trailed only Houston (16.5) and Atlanta (15.0). At .360, the Cavs’ 3-point percentage was seventh in the league.
With three 3-pointers vs. Miami, Collin Sexton (76) passed Kyrie Irving (73) for the rookie team record in a season.