Osman earns another start when Cavs face Thunder

February 13, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Cedi Osman, for now at least, has changed Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue's thinking about his starting lineup.

In the first two starts of the small forward's career in the wake of Cleveland's set of roster-morphing moves at the trade deadline, Osman has averaged 14 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists.

After initially saying that Osman's time in the starting lineup would be short-lived, Lue is now riding the hot hand, as Osman is expected to make a third consecutive start Tuesday when the Cavaliers play at the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I like where we're at right now, and we'll just kind of go from there and see how it plays out," Lue told reporters Monday.

That shift keeps LeBron James in a bit of a different position, as he's forced to move to power forward with Osman in the starting lineup instead of, say, Rodney Hood, who was expected to move into a starters role after coming over in one of three deadline deals last week.

"I like what he brings," Lue said. "I think having Bron at the four ... it's a big disadvantage having him at the four, because now you've got four guys that push it out on the break. I think that's big."

Osman also did a solid job defensively Sunday guarding Boston's Kyrie Irving in Cleveland's 121-99 beatdown of the Celtics.

Against the Thunder, he figures to spend some time on reigning NBA most valuable player Russell Westbrook, who is expected back after missing two consecutive games with a sprained ankle.

"Russ is just very good, a lot of energy," Osman said. "So it's going to be another big challenge for me."

Cleveland has won three consecutive games, scoring 121 or more points in each. Prior to that streak, the Cavaliers had a 6-13 stretch that sent management rushing to overhaul the roster before the deadline.

While Lue is letting his starting lineup be for right now, Thunder coach Billy Donovan continues to tinker.

In the eight games following Andre Roberson's season-ending injury, the Thunder have started three different players in Roberson's shooting forward role. Terrance Ferguson started the first five games and went 1-4 before giving way to Josh Huestis, who started in two games including the win at Golden State last week. Sunday, Alex Abrines earned a starting nod.

"I think that spot, it could be different," Donovan said. "I don't want to say it's going to be different night to night, but yeah, it could change in certain situations based on what's best for our team."

What the Thunder do expect to have back, though, for Tuesday's game are Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Like Westbrook, Anthony suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Warriors last Tuesday. Both have missed the two games since.

Donovan said Monday he would have to check with the team's medical personnel before making a determination but both were full participants in Monday's practice.

The Thunder have won two of their last three after dropping four consecutive games in the immediate aftermath of the Roberson injury.

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