Dribbles: Cavs Battle Way Past Magic as Evan Mobley Delivers Needed Night

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 103-92 win over the Magic on Wednesday.Evan Mobley

1. For most of the night, if you weren’t a fan of either team, you might have changed the channel. You may have anyway.

2. That’s just the kind of game it was — as the Cavs in particular slogged their way through. And guess what? That’s OK. There are 82 of these things. Not every one will be riveting, or a work of art.

3. But it was a big night for Evan Mobley, the kind of night he needed after a sort of a sluggish start to the season. For Mobley, anyway.

4. The Magic came big, young and hungry — with No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero starting alongside Wendell Carter Jr. and the talented Franz Wagner. And man, Banchero is good. Like, real good. But it was the Cavs’ frontline of Mobley, Jarrett Allen and surprise starter Dean Wade that got it done. 

5. Again, Mobley was definitely better, and seemed more comfortable, than in the first three games — finishing this one with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He still seems a little unsettled with the ball at times, a far cry from last season. He also only grabbed three rebounds in 34 minutes. But overall this was a positive step.

6. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Mobley: “He was determined to help us win this game. We know what he’s capable of and we believe in him.”

7. Bickerstaff also mentioned how Mobley missed the preseason with a bum ankle, making an excellent point. “To be fair, this is his preseason,” the coach said.

8. Meanwhile, Allen was fabulous, doing what he does best, staying true to his own game  by defending, rebounding and throwing down a couple of massive slams. In the end, he compiled 18 points and a whopping 16 rebounds, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. All this while having to deal with Banchero at the other end.

9. Wade picked up his first start of the season, most likely because Bickerstaff wanted to go big against the tall and long Magic. Also perhaps because Isaac Okoro hasn’t done much with the opportunity. Wade finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting on threes — and those 12 points in this one game were double what Okoro has compiled on the season.

10. Granted, it’s not all about scoring, but you do need to offer something on offense. 

11. Anyway, yes, we are this far along and have yet to mention Donovan Mitchell. That is because he had a fairly off, fairly quiet night. At least he did in terms of scoring (12 points) and shooting (5-of-19 and 1-of-7 on 3-pointers), ending his streak of 30-point efforts at three.

12. That said, he did have a remarkable dunk, bringing fans out of the seats. So even when Mitchell is average, it’s safe to say he’s still more dynamic than most.

13. And let’s not forget Cedi Osman, who has given the Cavs everything they are looking for in reserve. Osman was again aggressive in scoring 14 points, and has now scored at least 14 in all four games. In fact, this was his low for the season. Translation: He’s been as good as ever in the first week.

14. Allen said Bickerstaff challenged the Cavs (3-1) in the locker room at halftime, and Bickerstaff admitted as much. In fact, Bickerstaff said couldn’t repeat what he told the team, because his mother might wash out his mouth with soap.

15. Bickerstaff on his halftime message to the players: “They took it, they understood it, there was a fire lit. I don’t think we played Cleveland Cavaliers basketball in the first half. I didn’t like our attention to detail.”

16. Caris LeVert finished with 10 points and six assists, a few of which were highlight-worthy. Like Mitchell, he struggled hitting shots, with LeVert going just 3-of-12 from the field. Nor could Kevin Love find the range (1-of-7 shooting), though he did grab seven boards.

16. Banchero went for 29 points and Wagner scored 22 for the Magic (0-5). Each went 10-of-19 from the field. The third-most impressive Orlando player may have been young center Bol Bol, who scored nine points and collected 10 rebounds in reserve.

17. Finally, Darius Garland is coming around, taking part in shootaround and seemingly nearing a return — if not in Friday’s road game vs. the Celtics, then perhaps Sunday at home vs. the Knicks.

18. Bickerstaff said the Cavs don’t want to put Garland “in danger” on the court, in the event the swelling in his left eye limits his peripheral vision. But Bickerstaff did say it’s “only a matter of time” before Garland returns. He added that Garland has been fitted with protective goggles and will likely wear them when he returns.

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