Dribbles: Cavs Back to Themselves, as Win Over Blazers Reveals

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 114-96 home win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. …Jarrett Allen

1. The Cavs did what they were supposed to do — they beat an inferior opponent at home.

2. That’s not to downplay the Cavs’ dominance on this night, nor is it meant to insult the Blazers. But they were without injured star Damian Lillard, and even with him, probably aren’t on the level of these Cavs.

3. So, all the Cavs had to do was handle business on their own floor. And that they did, methodically and with the right balance of their own stars, the so-called role players, a fair amount of defense and plenty of unselfishness.

4. As coach J.B. Bickerstaff will tell you, in theory, that’s Cavs basketball. When it’s clicking they’re one of the NBA’s top teams. It’s that simple, and it was on display on Thanksgiving eve.

5. So make it four straight wins as the Cavs (12-6) head back to face the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday. What’s different this time?

6. Bickerstaff offered an answer to reporters: “I think we have a better understanding of what we need to do to be the team that we want to be. (The five-game losing streak) was a spell where we were, you know, too much free-flowing and playing a tempo that we’re not comfortable with, that doesn’t suit us.”

7. He added that the Cavs have gotten back to what worked previously, “and understanding executing at the end of basketball games.”

8. Donovan Mitchell was again brilliant with 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He was also 6-of-10 on 3-pointers. The Cavs are a team in the truest sense — but it seems anytime Mitchell scores at least 30, they win.

10. Darius Garland was also very good with 24 points and 12 assists. The Cavs outscored the Blazers by 26 points when he was on the court. It seems Garland and Mitchell are finding their stride.

11. Not to be forgotten was the output from Jarrett Allen, who not only scored 24 points (10-12 shooting) and grabbed 13 rebounds, but continued to make a major impact at the other end. Bickerstaff called Allen a “defensive savant.”

12. Lamar Stevens again started and added an underrated 12 points, and Evan Mobley scored 10 to go with a dozen boards. In another encouraging sign, Dean Wade returned after battling a knee injury and played 18 minutes in reserve.

13. Overall, the Cavs shot a sizzling 55 percent from the field, including 44 percent on threes. That shows the ball was moving enough for them to get plenty of good looks — supporting Bickerstaff’s earlier point.

14. There’s more, according to Garland. “We’re starting to get physical,” he told Bally Sports.

15. Imagine that. These Cavs, a physical team. But when they’re good, they’re very good, and that much was on full display on this night.

16. Kevin Love sat out to manage the hairline fracture in his thumb, making this the second of the second game he’s missed in the last three. He didn’t look like himself last time, so it’s probably a good idea to give the thumb a break. Reports suggested Love was also not feeling well.

17. Bickerstaff on Love: “Kevin’s thumb is not comfortable, I’m not going to sugar coat it. He was playing with pain the other night. It’s going to be all about managing pain for a while.”

18. Caris LeVert missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. He is considered day-to-day, a source told Hoops Wire.

19. The short-handed Blazers (10-8) were led by Jusuf Nurkic‘s 22 points. Jerami Grant added 21 and Anfernee Simons had 20. “We’re scrapping and we’re positive and we’ll keep at it,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said.

20. The Cavs finished the night as owners of the league’s third-best record. “Defenses have a tough decision to make on how they’ll guard us,” Bickerstaff said. “A lot of times, they’ll err on the side of defending Donovan, but he’s a willing passer.”

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