Dribbles: Cavs Fail to Close Again, Fall to Warriors, But Home Awaits

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 106-101 road loss to the Warriors on Friday night. …Donovan Mitchell Steph Curry

1. The Cavs were not great at the end of this trip. That’s just the truth. But man, you can’t accurately gauge a team on one of these West Coast swings. They’re brutal. Always have been, always will be. Forever and ever amen.

2. Darius Garland hasn’t played well. Caris LeVert has been wildly streaky. You can even say the same about Evan Mobley. As for the bench, Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman have been nonexistent. When they’re on the court, it’s as if the Cavs are playing 4-on-5 on offense.

3. Aside from the fantastic Donovan Mitchell (29 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists), the Cavs have been incredibly sloppy at the most important times — both offensively and defensively. The starters have looked tired at the end of games. It’s probably because J.B. Bickerstaff has gotten so little from the bench lately. If the coach is indeed hesitant to pull the starters, well, you can’t blame him.

4. This isn’t meant to rip the Cavs (8-4). There’s no shame in losing to Steph Curry and the defending champions on their own court. It’s the losses to the Clippers and Kings that you wish you could have back. That’s especially the game against the Clippers. Cleveland gave that one away.

5. It feels like the Cavs are forcing it with Okoro. He’s not terrible — but what did he really offer in his 19 minutes? Would it really kill them to give Lamar Stevens a try? Okoro is averaging 2.0 points on .296 percent shooting. Is that so irreplaceable that the Cavs can’t try someone else?

6. Mitchell’s ankle injury at the end was a bit concerning. You could see on his face that he himself was concerned. There were no updates from the West Coast as of 2 a.m. EST. We’ll just have to wait and see.

7. Garland (15 points, eight assists) has not been himself. He was better in this game than the previous two, but he still went 5-of-19 shooting. His defense is also leaving a lot to be desired. 

8. But one thing that’s important to remember is we’re not even yet at the midway point of November. The regular season doesn’t end until April. We still have to go through winter and nearly spring. That’s a long time.

9. Mitchell to reporters on the loss: “Just have to be better late. Tonight was positive. I think we competed well for 48 minutes. I think we put together like 46 good minutes and you’re playing against a team where you make a mistake and they’re going to burn you.”

10. More Mitchell: “We may be able to get away with certain things against other teams, but you play the defending champs and guys who have been together for 10-12 years, you have to be on point. We weren’t that tonight.”

11. That’s a good approach from your team leader. Learn from it, get over it, move on to the next one.

12. So the Cavs lost three straight in California, yes. That happens to a lot of teams from the Eastern Conference, even the best and the brightest. Do they have some things to clean up? Yes. Is there any reason to be concerned beyond that? Not really.

13. Five of the Cavs’ next six games are at home, starting Sunday vs. the Timberwolves. Home-court advantage is more significant in the NBA than in any other sport. So let’s see what they do then before everyone gets all freaked out.

14. Mobley added 20 points and 13 rebounds — including eight at the offensive end. A few were follows of missed shots that he slammed home. He still doesn’t seem as fluid as he did last season. But again, it’s incredibly early.

15. Jarrett Allen scored 13 points and collected nine boards. It’s hard to ever find fault with anything he does. One thing he will always do is play hard. That’s true of this entire group, to be honest. They are just out of sorts right now. Even so, the Cavs have had a chance in each of their losses. They just failed to close.

16. If we’re still saying these same things at the end of next week, then maybe it’s time for concern. It’s much too soon for that right now. 

17. Curry was again dynamite. You’d think he would start slowing down at some point. But there are no signs of that. He scored 40 and has been carrying this Warriors team more than ever.

18. Outside of Curry, the Warriors look pretty average. Klay Thompson (nine points, 3-of-13 shooting) isn’t the same, that’s for sure. But he did hit a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Champions often find a way.

19. Bickerstaff with the final word: “It’s the experiences that we have to have. We’ve got to go through it. They are the world champs for a reason. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn and try to figure it out, but it’s going to take us time.”

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  1. Sorry, Sam, I’m agreeing with Joy on this one. lack of “D” is still plaguing not only Garland but some others as well, particularly in the endgame. And that is also when they have, since he returned, tried to give Garland the ball to SCORE, & he hasn’t come thru in the clutch like his normal self. He has temporarily lost his mojo & you can’t just keep doing the same thing expecting a different result–that’s what they call insanity I believe. Garland is good, no doubt, but when, like last year when he was “wornout” by the stress of having to carry the whole team when they were injured, He became awful AT THE END OF GAMES. It’s as if this time he trying to recapture himself as the Leader again when he’s not physically & mentally prepared again. To put him out there as the “carry us home” guy right now…. It ain’t happening.
    At the end of these games, it’s STOPS & POINTS & you can’t count on DG for either right now. The slide has begun until he awakens OR THE COACHING DOES. Yes, they’ve been sleeping too. Mitchell is wow! Garland is NOT.

  2. I DO agree with you on Lamar Stevens. Okoro is dying on the vine here, might as well let him die on the bench or in the G League or something & yes Cedi too.
    I might be a bit premature but as for Garland, he’s quickly looking so much like a starter kit for a Russell Westbrook impersonator. Let’s hope it will soon turn around. Throwing up bricks with reckless abandon near the end does not win games.

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