Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 117-103 home win over the Kings on Saturday.
1. Chemistry. Cohesion. Confidence. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2021-22 Cleveland Cavaliers.
2. How good are things? As Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com noted, the Cavs haven’t trailed since the 2.47 mark of the first quarter vs. the Bulls … on Wednesday. Since then, they’ve won at Minnesota and held off a Kings rally Saturday after building a huge early lead.
3. Despite scoring 81 points in the first half, the Cavs had some nervous moments in the fourth quarter, as the Kings actually cut their deficit to single digits.
4. Then coach J.B. Bickerstaff got his team to settle down and rediscover its rhythm with about 6 minutes to go. The Cavs still couldn’t make a shot (they started 1-of-14 shooting in the fourth). But they got back to their principles, playing with patience, passion and grit to close it out.
5. It helped that Ricky Rubio, who was otherwise just OK, buried a 3-pointer late to end the Cavs’ shooting woes and seemingly break the Kings’ spirit.
6. Then he hit another with 1:34 to go to put the Cavs back up 14. Ballgame.
7. Those two huge threes by Rubio were sandwiched between a couple of Darius Garland floaters. Yes, it probably should have been a laugher, with the Cavs erupting to a 29-point advantage. But I don’t blame them for fading. They had just played the previous night on the road, then let their foot off the gas Saturday. It was to be expected, actually.
8. As it stands, the Cavs (16-12) have won three straight and seven of nine. And look at this way — they experienced a little fourth-quarter panic Saturday, yet still won by 14.
9. For the second straight night, three members of the team compiled double-doubles. Jarrett Allen finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Evan Mobley had 15 and 15, respectively. Garland scored 16 and passed for 13 assists.
10. Oh, and what do you know, but no less than Isaac Okoro scored 20 to lead seven players in double figures. Cedi Osman (18), Rubio (15) and Kevin Love (11) were the others, and each contributed in his own important way.
11. Some of those stats, by the way, are worth repeating. Mobley really did pull down 15 rebounds. Garland really did pass for 13 assists. Okoro really did lead an extremely balanced team in scoring. This is all working out swimmingly.
12. Granted, Lauri Markkanen really struggled (three points, 1-of-8 shooting), but you will have those nights during the course of an 82-game season. As analyst Austin Carr said on Bally Sports, what matters is Markkanen’s teammates still lifted him up.
13. Garland to Bally Sports’ Andre Knott on the state of things: “We have some work to do. I think we’re getting there. We’re getting better every day, so that’s all we can ask for.”
14. I concur. The Cavs truly are getting better, and when entirely healthy, they had already proven to be pretty good and the NBA’s biggest surprise.
15. As for this game in particular, Bickerstaff credited his team for not totally collapsing when the Kings made their massive run. “Our guys had the fortitude to get it done,” he said.
16. Bickerstaff on the big picture: “There are certain things and certain moments that we’re capable of, we just need to be able to sustain that more.”
17. But hey, for this year’s Cavs, it’s been a case of so far, so good and so much fun.
18. Buddy Hield led the Kings (11-16) with a game-high 21 points. Hield is a nice player whose name is already making the rounds on the rumor mill. Many people around the league believe he’s a prime candidate to be moved ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.