Dribbles: Can Cavs still rise after key injuries? Oh yes they can

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles ahead of the Cavaliers’ home game against the Houston Rockets on Monday.Isaac Okoro

1. Well, Game 1 without both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley sure went OK. In Saturday’s win over the Hawks, the Cavs looked as balanced and cohesive as ever.

2. That’s the big question after the injuries. We all know Donovan Mitchell will do his thing. But will others be able to step up in the absence of Garland and Mobley? Saturday’s win was a shining example that they can.

3. Jarrett Allen was huge with 25 points on a sizzling 12-of-14 shooting, with 14 rebounds. Isaac Okoro started and scored 18 on 6-of-9 shooting. Dean Wade was better than at any other time with 16 on 5-of-8 from the field. (Mitchell of course had 22 points and a career-high 13 assists.)

4. Okoro and Wade have been putting together quality floor games all season, doing the little things and really defending. But as soon as we learned about Garland and Mobley, I thought that Okoro and Wade would need to start scoring. Could they do it? After one game, that answer was a loud and resounding yes.

5. Allen had also been in a mini-slump heading into the Atlanta game. Yes, it helped that the Hawks were without injured center Clint Capela. But sorry, if I’m the Cavs, I’m the last team that’s showing sympathy to anyone else when it comes to injuries.

6. Allen to reporters: “I knew that our team could do it because we have the next-man-up mentality. It was different with Donovan at point guard. He definitely facilitated tonight, and I think he took pride in it.”

7. Added Mitchell: “We’ve got to do it as a group. We lost two of our dogs. This run we’re about to go on, it’s for them. We’re doing it together as a group.”

8. And while some fans haven’t been thrilled with the early season for the Cavs (14-12), at least they’re not the Hawks. That team has been perhaps the league’s most disappointing after reaching the Eastern Conference finals two years ago.

9. Anyway, back to Cleveland. Or more specifically, Houston. The Rockets are no longer everyone’s homecoming game after hiring coach Ime Udoka and adding the likes of point guard Fred VanVleet and forward Dillon Brooks. The Rockets finished 22-60 last season. They’ve already won more than half that this year and sit at 13-10.

10. So just like every game, the Cavs will need plenty of Mitchell and “to do it as a group,” as he said.

11. Frankly, I think the Cavs will be fine. Ten of their next 13 are at home. That takes them to Jan. 17. They have a chance to really rise right now. Then they can slow work in Garland … then Mobley … and take off when the season means the most (read: February and later). Some people have told me they think the Cavs are a play-in team. I think they finish no worse than fifth in the East and potentially higher.

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