Dribbles: Undermanned Cavs Give Admirable Effort, But It’ll Take An NBA Miracle Now

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles after the Cavaliers’ 109-102 home loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoff series on Monday. …Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick White, Boston Celtics, NBA

1. Without Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, the Cavs gave it all they had. Every last ounce. But this would be a tough series even with Mitchell and Allen. Without them, it’s the tallest of tasks.

2. It really doesn’t go any deeper than that. We can scrutinize and analyze, but when you’re missing your top two players of the postseason … against the team with the best record … well, what can you do?

3. The answer is give it all you got, and it sure looked like those were the Cavs of Monday night, with no less than LeBron James, wife Savannah, and agent Rich Paul sitting courtside.

4. Sometimes, you’re best just isn’t good enough and you can only tip your cap to the other guy. So it will take an NBA miracle now, with the Cavs trailing 3-1 as they head back to enemy territory.

5. As for Mitchell and Allen, it’d be a surprise if either is a go in Boston on Wednesday. Mitchell has a calf issue, Allen has missed seven straight with bruised (and some suspect fractured) ribs.

6. The Cavs trailed just 102-97 with a little more than a minute left and a couple of chances to cut it to two. But the 3-pointers wouldn’t drop. Then Celtics star Jaylen Brown buried a three with 1:08 to go, and that was all she wrote.

7. Mitchell has averaged 29.6 points through the first 10 playoff games. That included a 50-point outburst in Game 6 of the first round at Orlando. There’s truly no way to overcome an absence like that.

8. Darius Garland sure tried, putting together his best game in months, scoring 30 points on 12-of-27 shooting to go with a game-high seven assists. Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert each scored 19, with Mobley pulling down nine rebounds.

9. Defensively, the Cavs were flying all over the court, bending their knees and shuffling their feet, playing each possession to near exhaustion. Then Celtics stars Jayson Tatum (33 points) and Brown (27) would make the shot, anyway.

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff offered nothing but praise to the guys who did play. “They laid it all out there,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys and the way they competed. We played the game selflessly. I couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”

11. Effort or not, the Cavs will need to do something they haven’t done since (you guessed it) the 2016 NBA Finals. Only this time, James is just a guy who occasionally takes in the game.

12. Max Strus is among those who played his buns right off, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting on threes before fouling out. You could say that about everyone though — Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Sam Merrill, Tristan Thompson, Georges Niang, everyone.

13. If there’s one thing that did not please the Cavs, it was the officiating. Boston took 24 free throws, compared to seven for Cleveland. “I’ll be honest, I was disappointed with the way the whistle blew tonight,” Bickerstaff said. “… (The officiating) didn’t seem like it was balanced.”

14. That was actually Bickerstaff being diplomatic. It was also one of the first topics Garland discussed.

15. Anyway, what’s the plan for Game 5? “The same aggressiveness, the same attitude, just try to get up as many threes as we can,” Garland said. “Try to buckle down defensively. Just keep being us, man. We just gotta keep fighting through all this. That’s what we always do.”

16. And right now, it’s truly all the Cavs can do. The offseason looms. Fight is all that’s left. “Why not?” LeVert said. “We believe in our group.”

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
LeBron James takes in Game 4 of the NBA playoff series between the Cavaliers and Celtics in Cleveland. (AP Photo)

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