Dribbles: Cavs Aim To Keep ‘Climbing And Clawing’ As More Setbacks Emerge

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 117-103 road loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday.Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. Well, safe to say that was less-than-impressive. The Cavs just didn’t have it. And one game after they really did have it in a convincing road win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

2. You’ll have that. It’s life in the NBA. Sometimes, you just come out flat and the other guy takes advantage.

3. But it’s been the story too often for the Cavs since the All-Star break. It’s OK once in a while. When it starts to become a regular thing, you can get a little concerned.

4. I don’t think the Cavs are there yet when it comes to the concern part. They do need to get things more shored up and become sharper on a regular basis. They’ve done it before. We all saw it.

5. Injuries have something to do with that. Donovan Mitchell isn’t right. He said he knows that. So he’s going to take more time off.

6. That’s probably the wise thing to do. Mitchell said his faulty left knee is keeping him from blowing by people. His scoring average has gone from 28.0 points for the season to 13.5 over the last two games.

7. He is shooting a combined 9-of-29 since returning. Before that, he missed seven straight games. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what’s going on here. As admirable as it is that Mitchell wanted to play, it’s also smart to rest/recover when he feels the need.

8. Translation: Just try to get healthy for the playoffs. The Cavs (42-25) have 15 games left. The current lineup should be able to keep them close to where they are now, which is third place in the Eastern Conference. 

9. Of course, they’re also without Evan Mobley and Max Strus, and I have no idea when those two will return. I doubt it’s in time for Monday’s road game vs. Indiana. At least Dean Wade is back after missing three games for personal reasons. Of course, he also missed Saturday’s game with knee soreness. 

10. Something’s gotta give here soon. I just hope for the Cavs’ sake it’s not another body part.

11. Anyway, regardless of who is or isn’t on the court, the Cavs can’t have too many more games like Saturday. They were just out of it. Their perimeter defense was sort of nonexistent. Their crispness and cohesion were lacking. They had a few moments — but nothing that would carry you to victory.

12. That’s unlike them. So we can chalk it up to a bad day. Just can’t let it become a habit.

13. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters: “Early in the ballgame, you could see we were getting outworked and out-scrapped. For us, the defense sets our tone and when we don’t do that, we don’t give ourselves a chance to win.”

14. As it stands, the Cavs are 4-6 in their last 10 and haven’t won back-to-back games since Feb. 27. That’s almost a month ago.

15. Caris LeVert had a nice game with 21 points and seven assists. Georges Niang scored 14 points with five rebounds. Everyone else was just sort of … meh.

16. Niang put it perfectly when speaking to reporters after the loss. “This is a marathon,” he said. “We’re looking to play our best basketball going into the playoffs. Obviously, we have some injuries and some stuff we need to get figured out. As they say in the Boston Marathon, we’re at Heartbreak Hill. We’re climbing and clawing, and that’s what we’re going to do to keep improving and keep getting better.”

17. On the bright side, the Cavs are bringing in veteran forward Marcus Morris, as we relayed here. That could help offset some of the injuries. Tristan Thompson also returned from a 25-game suspension. 

18. Both play with a determined edge and the Cavs can always use more of that — especially when they’re so shorthanded. I suspect Morris’ 10-day deal will be official on Monday, so the Cavs can milk every last day out of it. That’s just a guess, though.

19. Nothing major, nothing the Cavs haven’t already overcome. It’s all about the long game. That said, the end of that long game is almost here. Then the playoffs begin.

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