Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 108-100 home win over the bottom-dwelling Pistons on Friday.
1. You don’t need Donovan Mitchell to beat Detroit. I’m not saying that’s the reason Mitchell missed the game with a reported hamstring strain. I’m just saying this was a game the Cavs could win without their leading scorer.
2. So if Mitchell has a bothersome hamstring, it’s good he rested. Everyone else did plenty.
3. For the second straight game, the Cavs turned it into a 48-minute scrimmage. They took a 59-45 lead at halftime, sort of got lazy in the third quarter, and then did enough to keep the cushion at about 10 points for most of the fourth.
4. Frankly, that’s good enough. When you’re playing a team that had about a 2.7 percent chance of winning, it’s hard to stay motivated the whole time.
5. Darius Garland was mostly fantastic with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting. We can probably even look past the fact he committed five turnovers (compared to three assists).
6. I know. Garland’s turnover numbers are driving you crazy. So many are indeed unnecessary. But the key is to make up for it in other areas, which he did in this one. At some point, though, he has to take better care of the ball. He says he knows that.
7. The Cavs also received fine performances from Evan Mobley (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Max Strus (18 and seven, respectively). I’d say the other main contributor was rookie point guard Craig Porter Jr., who scored 12 and passed for a team-high five assists in 16 minutes.
8. Porter is still a little up-and-down, but that’s to be expected with an undrafted rookie. The bottom line is he’s looking like a steal of a summer signing. It seems he only needs more NBA in-game reps and some time in the G League.
9. Yes, this was one of those In-Season Tournament games, so the Cavs broke out the special court and City Edition uniforms. Let me just say I’m a fan of both. Cleveland (6-6 overall) is now 1-1 in group play.
10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters on the tourney: “Guys have to kind of figure out what this is. Coaches as well. At the end of the game tonight, you’re going back and forth because point-differential matters. But you have the lead — do you keep your guys on the floor, and how do you finish the game?”
11. In other words, in the In-Season Tournament, running up the score actually means something. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that until Friday.
12. I think there are a lot of things about this tournament we don’t know. But whatever. It’s creating dialogue about the league during an otherwise slow time of the season for fans. Worth a shot, no?
13. But here’s what I think matters more to fans — the Cavs have won three of four and aren’t really even hitting on all cylinders yet.
14. Meanwhile, Porter talked with the media about getting another opportunity. “It’s big obviously for my confidence,” he said. “With some guys down with injury, we just need a little bit of a lift. Having the coaches put me in that position means a lot.”
15. Basically, the Cavs again did what they had to do, took care of business on their own floor. Nothing has been too dynamic, but they are getting it done, for the most part, over the past week or so.
16. Now they get a crack at the reigning champion Nuggets on Sunday, in Cleveland. It’s actually a tough stretch coming up — because after the Nuggets, they visit the 76ers, then host the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat. Then it’s the lone visit of the year from some guy named LeBron James and his Lakers.
17. Translation: It’s a good time for the Cavs to play their best basketball of the early season and start serving some notice.
18. Finally, I feel bad for people who pull for the Pistons. They’re 2-11, again will not make the play-in tournament, and still have 71 games to go. Nothing is changing with Detroit. They’re still young … and bad. I remember those days in Cleveland and they’re not much fun for anyone.