Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 113-110 road win over the Hornets on Monday …
1. Here is how I predicted the Cavs to finish on their five-game road trip: 0-5. Here is what they actually finished: 3-2.
2. Here is how many games most people expected them to win on the trip: Maybe one. Here again is how the trip went: 3-2.
3. How did this young team do it? With heart, hustle and perhaps a little bit of not believing anything anyone says. Or at least using it as motivation.
4. On Monday, they also did it without Kevin Love coming off the bench for the first time this season. He is out after entering health and safety protocols. Say what you will about Love, but his veteran presence off the bench has been key in the early success.
5. They also did it without Isaac Okoro, who has missed four straight games with a hamstring issue.
6. But the Cavs did it — oh yes they did. Guts, good enough defense (for most of the night, anyway), and plenty of balance.
7. Balance? How about all five starters scoring in double figures? For such a young lineup, the Cavs clearly understand the benefit of sharing the wealth.
8. Jarrett Allen led the way, coming to life to erupt for 24 points and 16 rebounds. Lauri Markkanen scored 21. Collin Sexton had 17 (and an underrated seven boards). Darius Garland scored 16, including some critical free throws. Rookie Evan Mobley scored 15 and grabbed 10 rebounds, and did so much more. And Cedi Osman scored 13 in reserve one game after going for 20.
10. Quite honestly, it’s hard to find fault with the Cavs here. They overachieved. They even looked good against the Lakers. If it hadn’t been for the final six minutes or so in LA, their record on this trip could’ve been 4-1.
11. But they can hold their heads high about 3-2. Overall, they’re 4-4. Considering the schedule, and what everyone actually expected, that’s reason to feel proud, too.
12. By the way, last time the Cavs finished with a winning record on a road trip of at least five games? The answer is 2016, back when You Know Who was still on the team.
13. The Cavs led this game by 19 points. Then the Hornets made a run. Then the Cavs built it back up to double-digits. Then the Hornets (5-3) made another run. It got to be nail-biting time at the end. The Cavs withstood it all.
14. Those are generally the signs of a veteran team, a team that has been there before and has little fear. Cleveland is far from that sort of team. But hey, you’d never know it.
15. And before we forget, coach J.B. Bickerstaff deserves plenty of credit for this as well. Everyone wants to see the players fare well — but you have to love how Bickerstaff isn’t afraid to pull them if they’re not getting it done. On Monday, he stuck to an eight-man rotation. That’s actually been sort of a theme.
16. Bickerstaff to reporters: “To go 3-2 on any trip is a hell of an accomplishment. And then you throw in the teams we played and the travel we did, and it’s a hell of an accomplishment for this group.”
17. Bickerstaff also had some fitting praise for Allen. “Jarrett has shown he can lead by example,” he said. “The guys love it. He’s been impressive.”
18. Finally, the Cavs get to return home where they will face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Now, we all know that even the most experienced teams can come out flat at home after a long road trip. So the Cavs will need to be careful.
19. Then again, I picked them to go 0-5 on this trip. So what do I know?