Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ toughie of a 132-120 road loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday.
1. Well, you’re not going to win them all. Or in the Cavs’ case, you’re not going to play well in them all.
2. The Kings entered the night really struggling with the deep ball, shooting just 32 percent on 3-pointers on the season. Boy, that sure changed Monday — as Sacramento was a sizzling 14-of-22 (or 67 percent) from beyond the arc.
3. I don’t think the Cavs were bad defensively. They actually did a decent job of defending the perimeter. That’s what made this one so deflating.
4. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to the other guy. And these particular other guys couldn’t miss, man. That was just the story of the night. The Kings found a rhythm like they have a few times this season. The Cavs were a step slow — and it cost them dearly.
5. To be honest, this was the Kings’ best game of the early season. They were due. Cleveland just happened to be the opponent.
6. It also marked the return of star point guard De’Aaron Fox, who had missed time with an ankle injury. Obviously, he’s healthy now, as Fox scored a game-high 28 points and tied Darius Garland with a game-high six assists. That dude is just good, period. He’s lightning quick, can hit from the perimeter, pass and score underneath.
7. Center Domantas Sabonis isn’t too shabby, either. He got things started by attacking Cavs bigs Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley every time he touched the ball in the first quarter. The result was a bucket or trip to the free-throw line.
8. But truth be told, if it had been just Fox and Sabonis, the Cavs may have been OK. Instead, they had no answer for anyone. Both Kings wing Kevin Huerter and forward Keegan Murray have been struggling all season. Not on this night. They couldn’t miss. And when they did it didn’t matter, because Sacramento was up by so much.
9. Offensively, the Cavs were fine — and again balanced. Donovan Mitchell scored 22 (though he went just 7-of-21 shooting). Caris LeVert had 21 off the bench, and truthfully, the guy has looked very good so far.
10. Max Strus added a quiet 19 on 5-of-9 shooting on threes. Garland and Mobley each scored 16, with Mobley collecting 11 rebounds. Allen and Georges Niang each had 12 points on a combined 10-of-13 from the field.
11. Again, offense wasn’t the problem. The Cavs shot 50 percent from the floor. But they could do nothing — like, zilch — to slow the fast-past, ultra-aggressive and sometimes even out-of-control Kings. Sacramento never takes its foot off the gas under coach Mike Brown and in this game, the Kings made what seemed to be everything they threw at the hoop. (Actually 49-of-83 for 59 percent shooting.)
12. All of it was just too much to overcome in Game No. 3 of a four-game trip.
13. I receive a lot of Twitter/X notifications from angry fans after every loss. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feedback and reactions. Fans are why I have a job. But I can’t agree with calling guys “busts” or demanding a coach be fired 10 games into the season.
14. If we ran a franchise that way, we’d have a new coach and a whole new roster after every game. Of course, this is the same for every team in every sport in every city. Aways remember that “fan” is short for “fanatic.”
15. Anyway, back to the pro basketball team in Cleveland. I do agree with coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who told reporters in Sacramento that the Cavs (4-6) have to decide what type of team they want to be defensively. They were very good last season. They’ve been this season too — but only in spurts.
16. Bickerstaff on the defense: “We’ve got a decision to make as a group. Is the defense going to be our priority and are we going to commit to that side of the ball? … We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the ability. We need to go out and do it.”
17. Sabonis was brilliant with 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting, along with 10 assists and nine boards. Murray scored 25 and Huerter went for 20. The Kings (5-4) also received an underrated 13 points and tons of hustle from Malik Monk off the bench/
18. For those keeping score at home, Brown is undefeated against the Cavs as Kings coach (3-0). I wrote about my time covering Brown, who I admire greatly, in my pregame dribbles.
19. Next up: The Cavs conclude their trip against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Win that and you go 2-2 in the four straight games away from home. Most teams would take it.
20. Final word from Bickerstaff: “Go back, watch the film and talk to the guys. But we have not competed at a defensive level that we’re accustomed to.”
Cavs halftime dribbles:
1. More energetic, more physical, more determined. That was the Kings to start the game.
2. They also have been mostly dynamite on 3s. So that’s inside … and outside. At least they’re not scoring from the midrange. Or something.
3. This has been like a…
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) November 14, 2023