Dribbles: Cavs Have Some Momentum, And Now, The Road Begins

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who return to practice Tuesday ahead of a four-game trip.Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen.

1. Can the Cavs build on their big win Sunday over the Warriors? Well, we’re about to find out, as they just got all their starters healthy and back in the lineup — and now embark on their longest trip of the early season.

2. The schedule: At Oklahoma City, at Golden State (yes, those guys again), at Sacramento and at Portland.

3. The Cavs won’t play another home game until a week from Friday, Nov. 17. So this will be a true test of their resolve and if they can continue to give themselves a chance on the road.

4. As it stands, Cleveland (3-4) is 2-1 on the road and 1-3 at home. Considering a staggering 75 games remain, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. But one thing we have learned is the Cavs are pretty doggone good when, as coach J.B. Bickerstaff likes to say, they are “whole.”

5. Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Max Strus have been together twice this season. The Cavs were great in the second half of the road loss to the Pacers and then played well enough to defeat the Warriors at home. That is despite the unit not getting many reps together, as Allen missed the entire preseason.

6. With the starters back, the bench has looked even better. Caris LeVert, Georges Niang, Dean Wade and Tristan Thompson all played underrated roles in the win over the Warriors. LeVert even stripped Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter, leading to a Cavs possession. But so few talk about those seemingly small, but often oh-so-critical, types of plays.

7. Basically, the Cavs looked like the team that Koby Altman and the front office envisioned when putting together the roster and making the offseason additions. And that was without Isaac Okoro (knee), who’s off to the best start of his career, and backup point guard Ty Jerome (ankle).

8. Okoro’s knee injury isn’t expected to be anything serious. it was listed as “right knee soreness.” We will know more Wednesday, when the Cavs visit OKC, and maybe before.

9. Anyway, most of the Cavs seem to believe their best basketball is yet to come. “We played a good game, but we can be better,” Mitchell said after the win over the Warriors.

10. I don’t think the Cavs need to go .500 on the trip. They just have to win one. If they stay healthy, they’re too good to lose all four. And that may not be so great on their collective psyche. 

11. I do think they’ll get one, possibly two. Just don’t ask me which ones. The Kings have been terrible lately without injured point guard De’Aaron Fox. But in the NBA, all that means is they’re probably due. 

12. The Warriors undoubtedly will want to avenge their loss Sunday, and perhaps unfortunately, it will still be fresh in their minds. The Thunder overcame a nine-point deficit to beat Cavs Lite in Cleveland. They’re a young, unpredictable team. The Blazers aren’t very good and have some key injuries to boot. But they’ll be at home, so again, none of the other stuff really matters.

13. So what do the Cavs have to do? Nothing really, beyond just being themselves. With Allen and Mobley, they can again be near the top of the league in defense. Good defensive teams have a better shot to win road games than those that merely try to outscore you. On the road, the legs are usually the first thing to go, causing shots to fall short or generally off-target.

14. I’ll have a lot more to say about the Cavs on Tuesday. First, an appearance on 92.3 The Fan at 1 p.m. Then, my weekly spot on Sports 4 CLE on Cleveland.com at 4:30ish. After that, it’s a new Cavs on the Break podcast with Chase Smith and John Sabol. We talk for about an hour on the pod. Then Sabol usually talks for another hour while we’re not recording, as Chase and I long for sleep.

15. Then again, it’s basketball season. This is no time to rest.

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  1. I think we have to at least split on this road trip. It’s time for higher expectations and nothing less than a split should be acceptable…..early season or not.

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