Dribbles: Cavs flat start proves costly vs. Celtics, but return home will tell us more

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 116-107 road loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday.Donovan Mitchell

1. On the bright side, the trip is over. The Cavs now have four straight and five of seven at home. We can make a better big-picture assessment after those.

2. Frankly, I didn’t think the Cavs had much of a chance after watching them two nights ago in Boston. The Celtics are already bigger and extremely dangerous when it comes to scoring at the rim. Not having Evan Mobley (knee) makes the latter significantly more difficult to contain.

3. Still, that doesn’t explain how the Cavs came out kind of flat. It was as if they had spent two days on a jet — except they spent the previous two nights in Boston. 

4. This sort of reminded me of the first-round playoff series vs. the Knicks. Even when the Cavs cut the deficit to three at the end of the third quarter (90-87) … well, it still didn’t feel like they had a real shot to win.

5. Right now, Boston is the Beast of the East. But I think the Cavs can beat anyone when they perform better than they did Thursday. I also wonder why Tristan Thompson only played three minutes despite the Cavs getting killed underneath. That was especially the case when Jarrett Allen took a breather. I thought the Cavs could’ve used considerably more of what Thompson brings — defense, rebounding and tons of hustle.

6. That’s not to question coach J.B. Bickerstaff or say that more Thompson would’ve meant winning the game. I just found the decision to keep him on the bench somewhat curious.

7. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, with eight rebounds and six assists. Caris LeVert came to life by scoring 26 off the bench and helped keep Cleveland in it during the third quarter. Darius Garland added 19 points — but had just three assists, compared to five turnovers. Can’t be sloppy with the ball against a team like Boston.

8. No one else did squat.

9. There was just too much standing around on offense for Cleveland and too many drive-bys for easy baskets for Boston. The Cavs battled in spurts — but not so much in others. They were totally there physically, making an effort. But lots of silly mental breakdowns.

10. Look, the Celtics will do this to people on their floor. They may be the best team in the NBA right now and are particularly lethal at home (12-0). I know fans want to react and be ticked off, and that’s OK. But I don’t see any team in the league coming into Boston and winning a game without their starting power forward. Not when the Celtics are entirely healthy.

11. Yes, the Cavs (13-12) are just a game over .500. Yes, they really need to luck into a stretch of total health for their starters. And yes, they could also use some time back at home to try to correct things. That last part is about to happen.

12. The Celtics (18-5) outrebounded the Cavs by a 44-39 count. That’s not that bad, all things considered. But what killed the Cavs was the second-chance points. It seemed like every time the Cavs started to get close, the Celtics would miss a shot, get the rebound, then score. That, friends, is just deflating.

13. Bickerstaff to reporters: “We just had a hard time finishing possessions. They ended up getting some second-chance points — points that were point-blank and at the rim. But I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of making them take tough shots.”

14. Then the Celtics got the offensive rebound and were able to try to score all over again. Oftentimes, they did. That’s what Bickerstaff meant when he said the Cavs didn’t “finish possessions.”

15. The Celtics (18-5) were led by the usual suspects. Jayson Tatum scored 27, Jaylen Brown went for 22, Kristaps Porzingis had 18, and Jrue Holiday and Derrick White added 15 and 14, respectively. So far, the offseason trades for Porzingis and Holiday are paying huge dividends, especially defensively.

16. Also, I really don’t think the Cavs are that far from becoming the team they think they can be. I don’t fault them for not winning at Boston (or even at Orlando). They do need some lucky breaks to start bouncing their way. But they also need to start making their own breaks.

17. No reason to panic. I know you want to, but don’t do it. Not yet. If the Cavs get/stay healthy, they will be at their best when it means the most. I truly believe that. Next up: Atlanta in Cleveland on Saturday.

18. Finally, trade season unofficially starts Friday. What might the Cavs be thinking? I wrote a column about exactly that earlier. You can check it out here.

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  1. I realize you said, It’s NOT a time to panic, yep, you ARE right…. but it IS well past time for the coach to WAKE UP. The game tapes ARE available to watch & analyze, & take some appropriate action!
    You are correct (again of course, lol) without starting forward, Mobley in particular, it going to be near impossible to beat a healthy Boston team at home & to DO that though, means GARLAND must be awakened too.
    It’s the same turnover machine reappears game after game year after year.
    If the Cavs have a 15 pt lead (1st game @ Bos) & Garland is reinserted, that lead goes to 10 in a minute & a half, then to 2 points in about 4-5 minutes,,,, you can almost predict it. When he has a lead he seems to feel he has leeway to insert himself into a casual street ball, toss up mentality.
    He has a continual tendency to drive into CROWDS or chuck up shots that are quickly unnecessary or DRIBBLE out the clock to the last second & attempt a desperation that won’t make it either.
    My point: These type attempts under this mentality ARE JUST AS GOOD AS AND SHOULD BE COUNTED AS TURNOVERS TOO as they have the same affect & quickly –these are the bounce off the rim that starts Boston’s fast breaks the other way & leads disappear fast !
    Last night WHEN he drives the ball into 3 (THREE) much TALLER defenders to attempt his shot, IS NO ONE ON THE COACHING TEAM TELLING HIM 2 (TWO) OF HIS OWN TEAM PLAYERS ARE WIDE OPEN ????? He is NOT 7 feet tall, & getting blocked & reblocked is not a winning situation. JB is NOT coaching OR if he is, it is NOT sinking in.
    & WHY is Isaiah Mobley not getting ANY time? Are they saving him for the end of the season? Is there maybe a game limitation on him & Bates and the others on two way contracts, right??
    Sorry, Please forgive me, didn’t mean to Panic, …mmv,nx;leo*hlwipij[e;puo &%o#u3Xu0sjxzxjb

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