Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ toughie of a 101-91 road loss to the Bulls on Saturday.
1. I did not expect the Cavs to win at Miami on Friday, or at Chicago on Saturday.
2. They did not surprise.
3. And guess what? Not a big deal. Just the opposite, actually. The Cavs have been full of pleasant surprises all season. So one weekend where they failed to pull off the unexpected? Yeah, no real reason for concern.
4. I especially didn’t expect the Cavs to beat either the Heat or the Bulls without Jarrett Allen or Caris LeVert. On Saturday, they didn’t even have Lauri Markkanen, who twisted his ankle in Miami.
5. Granted, the Cavs won’t make excuses. So I will for them. Losing back-to-backs on the road … to two teams in the top four of the conference … without three starting-caliber players? It was bound to happen.
6. We also have to remember that it’s not about this season for the Cavs (38-29). Yes, they want to win every game. Yes, they have proven they’re capable of some really good basketball. No, we shouldn’t expect them to pull off miracles. Not yet.
7. Beating the Heat in Miami or the Bulls in Chicago would qualify as pretty big upsets.
8. Against the Bulls, the Cavs didn’t play terrible. They just couldn’t get much going offensively. They could really use a player such as a LeVert, who can break down defenders off the dribble and get buckets. That’s incredibly valuable when the offense hits dead spots, particularly on the road.
9. No less than Darius Garland has labeled LeVert as “the missing piece.” On the bright side, LeVert has been taking part in pregame workouts. It sounds like he could return as soon as Monday vs. the Clippers.
10. Also on the bright side, the Cavs’ next five games are at home. Along with the Clippers, they will face the 76ers, Nuggets, Pistons, and yes, LeBron James and the Lakers. Nothing easy about that. But nothing these Cavs can’t conquer, either.
11. As for the game, the Cavs gave it their all and had some energy for most of the first quarter — but expectedly fell flat. They never led from the second quarter on.
12. Garland ended up with 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, finishing strong after a rough start. He clearly is getting used to opposing defenses double-teaming and getting physical with him. In the second half, he even picked up a rare technical.
13. Evan Mobley had a decent night as well, scoring 17 points, including 13 in the first half. Cedi Osman added 14 points off the bench, and Kevin Love added 10 points and 11 boards. Love and Dean Wade (seven points) replaced Allen and Markkanen in the starting lineup.
14. A shining example of the Cavs’ shooting struggles: They finished just 5-of-24 on 3-pointers.
15. In case all that weren’t enough, Rajon Rondo seemed to injure his ankle when attempting a 3-pointer in which he was fouled. It was ruled a Flagrant 1. Who knows if he too will miss more time after just returning from an injured toe.
16. Either way, the Cavs at least have continued to represent themselves well, and as we’ve seen, as long as they with the “scrap” that coach J.B. Bickerstaff preaches, they will be fine.
17. Love on the loss: “It was a tough one for us tonight but thankfully, we go back home and get to find ourselves a little bit with a home stand.”
18. All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls (41-26) with 25 points. He is having quite the comeback of a season. Nikola Vucevic added 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
19. Oh, and we can’t forget about old friend Tristan Thompson. He faced the Cavs for the first time as a member of the Bulls and was as pesky as ever in 14 minutes (five points, six rebounds). After the game, Thompson greeted Bickerstaff with a bear hug, lifting the Cavs coach right off his feet.
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I know you’re optimistic about the rest of the season. I was too, when they were tied for 3rd place. A real pleasure to watch them then, having fun too. All they had to do was as you too have said, just take care of the business. But they, for different reasons have not, injuries being the predominant setback. But they have also played into many SELF induced offensive lulls, even when they are slightly ahead & have met demise at the hands of late shot clock prayer shots otherwise known as bricks. Now, HARD to watch.
Yes they ARE a young team, but when you are 14 points behind with 6 minutes to go, you DON’T continue to just walk the ball across midcoast, nor do you waste time in EACH possession “challenge” dribbling at the top of the key only to throw away the possession on a desperation shot or run out the clock. So much of this even for YOUNG players should be evident on tape replays. Coaching should be pointing this out. They, the young Cav’s, HAVE, on occasion, made astonishingly dramatic comebacks, BUT they were MAKING their shots. This unfortunately seems to have come to a screeching halt, and an ensuing slide in the standing is about to be forthcoming. Offense has diminished, & Defense also getting sloppy too. If they don’t get several continuous wins starting soon, the Slide is coming. From 3rd to 6th was fairly quick since there wasn’t much distance between & what’s below is not far away.
With the numerous trades at the deadline, even the bottom of the standings teams are a bit better than they were, & the new bodies ARE supporting those teams efforts & closer to winning. The LACK of 3pt shooting is really showing up now, & raining down brick shots is not what will win. Toronto is right on their back. Here’s hoping they can get healthy quick & practice NOTHING but 3pt, & Foul Shots! They’re going to need every one.