Dribbles: Cavs Handle Business At Home As Playoff Race Stays Oh-So-Tight

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers‘ needed 110-98 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies in NBA action on Wednesday. …Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. For about 24 minutes, Cavs fans may have been thinking, “Here we go again.” That’s because the Cavs trailed by three points at halftime and looked rusty and sluggish.

2. Then suddenly, they came to life. A 13-2 run in the third quarter helped. They finished the job and did what had to be done.

3. Translation: You can’t be losing to this shell of an injury-riddled Grizzlies team anywhere, especially at home. The Cavs (47-33) understood that. It took a minute, but hey, a win is a win is a win, particularly at this time of year.

4. Donovan Mitchell returned and scored a game-high 29 on 9-of-17 shooting. Caris LeVert scored 18 off the bench. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen had 16 apiece, Garland adding nine assists and Allen 10 rebounds. Evan Mobley tacked on 12 points and 12 boards. All was right in the world again.

5. Mitchell to Bally Sports on the win: “I think we’re in a good spot. We’ll be ready when the time comes.” 

6. Ah, yes. The NBA playoff picture. The Cavs moved back to within a half-game of New York for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks (47-32) visit Boston on Thursday. Normally, that’d be a real tough one, but the Celtics may rest some of their key guys given that they’ve already locked up the top seed.

7. Translation: We shall see. All the Cavs can do is keep taking care of things at home. Their final two games of the regular season are Friday vs. Indiana in a biggie, and Sunday vs. lowly Charlotte. 

8. Win those, and I’m confident the Cavs will finish with at least the fourth seed in the East — which means, yes, home-court advantage in the first round. If that happens, they would likely face Orlando. 

9. I personally would like Cleveland’s chances if it enters the NBA playoffs riding three straight wins and facing a young Magic squad in the first round. Last year, I predicted the Cavs would lose to the Knicks in the first round. My pick would be different this year with a first-round matchup against the Magic.

10. Translation: We all know who we should be rooting for the Cavaliers to face in the first round.

11. Yeah, yeah. I know. Be careful what you wish for. But given the other possibilities — such as the Knicks, defending East champion Miami or Philadelphia — Orlando seems like the most favorable.

12. More Mitchell: “It’s not always going to be pretty. We haven’t been playing out best but we’re taking steps. … In order for us to do what we want to do and be where we want to be, it’s efforts like this, one through 15 (on the roster).”

13. Sounds simple, but Mitchell is right. The West trip is over, as is the three-game losing streak — and the upcoming game against Indiana is huge. It’ll be like NBA March Madness in April. Maybe now it’s the Cavs’ turn to ride some momentum.

14. Even more Mitchell: “Adversity is gonna come, so how do you respond? Tonight was a good start. Now we got Friday, then we got Sunday, and then it’s time.”

15. Max Strus added eight points and six boards, and Isaac Okoro had seven and four, respectively. 

16. Someone named Jake LaRavia went nuts for the Grizzlies (27-53), scoring a career-high 32 points and going 8-of-11 on 3-pointers. He may have even had his eyes open for a few of them. Old friend Lamar Stevens started and scored 16. It’s hard to remember that Memphis finished second in the West last season. But these Grizzlies aren’t those Grizzlies.

17. Orlando and Indiana are both a game behind the Cavs. So, yeah, Friday is massive in terms of seeding. Did this practice game against Memphis get the Cavaliers back on track? Friday will indeed answer that question.

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