Dribbles: Cavs Lead Coast To Coast, Get Physical, Claim Game 1

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 97-83 home win over the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series on Saturday. …

Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers, Joe Ingles Orlando Magic, NBA
(Nick Cammett/AP)

1. That is how you’re supposed to look in the playoffs. Experience, toughness, hustle plays, and belief. The Cavs came out with a great deal of energy and never trailed.

2. As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said at halftime, Orlando looked “overmatched.” The Magic can thank (or blame) the Cavs for that. Cleveland just looked like the superior team in nearly every facet.

3. Yes, the Magic made a few runs. Yes, the Cavs had some moments of frustration. No, not everything was perfect. But that’s just basketball. The Cavs were sharp for most of the game and managed to thwart every hint of opposing momentum. Whenever Orlando seemed like it had some hope … Cleveland stuffed it.

4. Here’s the only thing that matters: 1-0. That is the Cavs’ lead. They need to win three more to advance. I already wrote that I believe they will

5. And this is a meaningless stat but still kind of cool: The Cavs are 17-1 all-time when they win a series opener. That’s the best in the entire NBA.

6. Donovan Mitchell was brilliant, scoring a game-high 30 points with three steals. The Magic threw all kinds of stuff at him and he barely seemed to notice.

7. Jarrett Allen (16 points, 18 massive rebounds) and Evan Mobley (16 points, 11 boards) also came up big, showing right away that the lights weren’t too bright this time. In fact, if Allen and Mobley keep this up, it’ll just be lights out for Orlando, and soon.

8. Darius Garland added 14 points and eight assists, shooting 6-of-11 from the field. Yes, Garland still committed too many turnovers (five), but he at least looked to keep things moving and forced little. 

9. All this and the Cavs can still play better. Max Strus (3-of-8 shooting), Caris LeVert (2-of-7) and Georges Niang (1-of-7) couldn’t find the range. Someone from that group will have to start knocking down some shots and they know it. I believe that, eventually, someone from that group will do exactly that. Maybe even two someones.

10. Defensively, the Cavs were outstanding. Orlando was never able to get into a flow and barely got past 80 points. If Cleveland can do that more often than not, again, it will end this thing quickly.

11. Allen to Bally Sports after the win: “We know that we’re able to beat any team in this league as long as we play like this every single night.”

12. And if not exactly like this, then something close.

13. Allen also credited Niang and Isaac Okoro for helping to offer the “physicality” that the Cavs are determined to bring in this year’s playoffs. Allen deserves plenty of credit for that, too. “We threw the first punch,” he said.

14. Meanwhile, the Magic’s lack of playoff experience showed. They looked a little spooked right out of the gate — before settling down to make a couple of runs. The Cavs just wouldn’t let them get over the hump. Like, ever.

15. All-Star Paolo Banchero led Orlando with 24 points, and Franz Wagner added 18. Those two are gonna do their thing. The Cavs clearly understand that they’ll just have to hold everyone else in check.

  1. But most of all, it was a whole lot of Mitchell, who seemed to wear a look of extra determination all afternoon. “When he’s firing, it makes us so much more dangerous,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. “We talked about it before the game. … He’s in a great space.”

17. And after one game, so are the Cavs. Game 2 is Monday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

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