PHILADELPHIA — Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson is well aware that few places give opposing athletes a better chance to go back-and-forth with hometown fans like the City of Brotherly Love.
Beginning late in the third quarter of Friday’s 121-112 Cavs win at Wells Fargo Center, Clarkson engaged with a small but vocal group of Sixers fans seated across from the Cleveland bench. Make or miss, Clarkson and the fans exchanged words on a number of possessions.
“It’s part of the game and it’s fun,” Clarkson said. “I enjoy playing the game. When that stuff is going on, you’ve got to embrace it. Guys want to talk. It’s just fun playing when it’s like that, a hostile environment. It was good to get a win, too.”
Clarkson scored 19 points off the Cleveland bench, all in the second half to spark the Cavs to just their third win of the season. He shot 8-for-15 from the floor (53.3 percent) and canned a pair of deep 3-pointers while also grabbing three rebounds.
Clarkson made a couple of highlight-reel shots, including a breakaway layup on a play where he was fouled by Philly’s Landry Shamet with 45 seconds left in the third period.
Cavaliers coach Larry Drew said Clarkson brings a scorer’s mentality to the court the moment he steps on the floor.
“I know when he gets in to the game shots are going up,” Drew said. “The thing with Jordan is he just has to be mindful of what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot. Once he gets going, he’s tough to defend. We count on him when he comes off the bench to bring some instant offense. And he did tonight.”
Cleveland’s bench outscored Philadelphia’s reserves 28-17 led by Clarkson’s effort. But the Cavaliers backups did not score a point until a Larry Nance Jr. dunk with under a minute to play in the third. Clarkson said the difference after a shaky first half for the bench was Cleveland’s ability to sustain the starters’ momentum in the fourth quarter.
“We were playing well and everybody was sharing the ball,” Clarkson said. “When we found the mismatch, people went to work, getting the ball to whomever was making shots. It definitely was a good team win.”