Dribbles: Cavs Claim Opener Via Teamwork, Grit, and Donovan Mitchell Saving the Day

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 114-113 thriller of a road win in the season-opener vs. the Nets.Max Strus, Isaac Okoro and Donovan Mitchell celebrate

1. It took all of one game to see that, yes, it’s still nice to have a superstar. That man would be none other than Donovan Mitchell, who came to life just when his team needed him most.

2. I’m guessing that’s not the first time you’ve heard that about Mitchell.

3. With 12 seconds to go and the Cavs down by two, Mitchell buried a 3-pointer. There probably should’ve been a flopping call on Nets forward Cam Johnson on the play, too. But Mitchell wasn’t worried about that. He just gathered himself … and knocked it down.

4. Not long before that, Mitchell had a huge steal and finished the play with a dunk. As newcomer Max Struss told Bally Sports Ohio: “That’s why Donovan Mitchell is Donovan Mitchell.”

5. Win or lose, you can’t help but be fairly impressed with what the Cavs have put together here. It’s just nice for them that they won, too. For the first time in 23 years, the Cavs won a season opener on the road.

6. Mitchell finished with 27 points, six assists and five rebounds. It was just the type of performance we’ve come to expect from him. But Strus also had himself quite the Cleveland debut — also scoring 27 and going 7-of-13 on 3-pointers. 

7. Oh by the way, Strus also collected a game-high 12 rebounds. Without the injured Jarrett Allen (ankle), it’s nice to have a 6-foot-4 guard crashing the boards.

8. The Cavs once held a 13-point lead, then started to slowly fade in the late third and early fourth quarters. With about 1:30 left in the game, they trailed by a 111-105 count.

9. They gave up just two free throws — and no field goals — the rest of the way. So this truly was a teamwide effort, particularly at the defensive end. Basically, the Cavs kept things close as a team, then let their star carry them home.

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters on the win: “Everybody in their own way did what they had to do. Even if it’s a small thing that might not go on the stat sheet. … Everybody from top to bottom contributed and gave us a chance to win.”

11. Isaac Okoro got the start in place of Allen as Bickerstaff opted to go small-ish. But Okoro responded with the best opening night of his career, scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and offering his usual dose of determined defense. 

12. Darius Garland added 15 points, though committed six turnovers. Caris LeVert scored 11, but shot just 4-of-17. And Evan Mobley had a quiet night with 10 points and six boards. Still, those are just numbers and as Bickerstaff mentioned, each had his moments. For instance, Mobley blocked two shots and altered countless others.

13. Basically, this was a game in which the Cavs could have folded after the Nets went on their run. It didn’t look like it was over, but it didn’t look promising. Brooklyn is a good team with firepower and was playing at home. Yet the Cavs showed toughness and gutted it out. That’s a characteristic some have accused them of lacking.

14. But not on this night and that, folks, is how you start a season.

15. Allen could potentially return for Friday’s home opener vs. the Thunder. Or maybe the next night vs. the Pacers, also at home. Same goes for Dean Wade. And either would offer a lift, as the Cavs sure could use the size. They were out-rebounded by a 37-29 count.

16. That said, Damian Jones stayed active and did a nice job of not forcing anything in 11 minutes. Even when Allen returns, we can expect to see Jones get that sort of playing time.

17. Underrated guard Cam Thomas led the Nets with a game-high 36 points off the bench. Thomas doesn’t really look the part, but the guy just finds ways to put the ball in the basket. He missed his final shot to win it, though, as the Cavs did a nice job of keeping him away from the hoop.

18. Nets forward Mikal Bridges scored 20 points, but got off just 12 shots. Cameron Johnson added just 12points. Those stat lines can be considered victories for Cleveland’s defense. Keeping Bridges and Johnson in check is a big key to helping you beat Brooklyn. 

19. That’s it for now. There are 81 more of these to go. And if they’re anything like the first, it’s gonna be a fun ride for the Cavs and their fans.

Looking for the latest NBA Insider News & Rumors?

Be sure to follow Hoops Wire on TWITTER and FACEBOOK for breaking NBA News and Rumors for all 30 teams!

Leave a Reply