Dribbles: Cavs’ In-Season tourney dreams die, but win over Hawks a smashing success

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 128-105 rout of the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.Donovan Mitchell slaps hands with Darius Garland (Getty)

1. Well, it’s all over but the crying. Or something like that. Either way, the Cavs will not advance to the knockout round of the inaugural In-Season Tournament. “Hopefully next year,” Donovan Mitchell told Bally Sports with a shrug.

2. That’s not to downplay the tournament or the Cavs’ desire to advance and win it. Mitchell made it clear that “anytime there’s a (championship) involved,” you hope to claim the trophy. 

3. But despite overcoming a 12-point deficit in the first half and playing some of their best basketball of the season, the Cavs are staying home. I’m guessing most fans aren’t all that disappointed. Most fans are probably more focused on the bigger picture.

4. And bigger picture-wise, the Cavs (10-8) are showing that they are still pretty doggone good when they can stay mostly healthy for a few games. Mitchell for sure can. After seemingly trying to get his legs under him in the previous two, he rediscovered his stride in this one — and then some.

5. Mitchell erupted for 40 points and 11 rebounds, passing for five assists and making all nine of his free throws. This was the Mitchell who could help the Cavs go from being a pretty good team to one that can dream big.

6. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Mitchell bouncing back: “You don’t expect him not to have nights like tonight, but that’s because we’re spoiled.”

7. That’s true. Great players can have decent nights — and some people still consider it not to be enough sometimes.

8. But you don’t win a game this easily without contributions from everywhere, and that is precisely what the Cavs received. Evan Mobley may have been the all-around MVP of the night, scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds and blocking a whopping seven shots. Simply put, the guy was just everywhere.

9. Bickerstaff on Mobley: “There’s no limits to what Evan Mobley can be. … A stat doesn’t show how impactful he is.”

10. Nonetheless, those were some pretty impactful stats.

11. Darius Garland added a somewhat quiet 19 points and eight assists (with just two turnovers to boot). But quiet or not, Garland has had an outstanding week, and it’s no accident that the Cavs have won six of eight.

12. Jarrett Allen added 11 points and eight rebounds, and Georges Niang had 12 and seven, respectively, off the bench. Mitchell credited Niang with making big plays on both ends, sparking a Cavs’ 14-4 run that helped put them up by three at halftime (64-61).

13. Defensively, the Cavs really turned it up in the second quarter and kept it going in the second half. Hawks star guard Trae Young was averaging 35.0 points over his last four games. He was on a major tear. Cleveland held him to 13 on 3-of-14 shooting.

14. OK, back to the tournament, or actually the regular season. The Cavs now need two more games since they didn’t make the In-Season quarterfinals. The first of those games will be held at home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, vs. the Orlando Magic. The other will be held on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Miami Heat. I tweeted out the full NBA schedule of those games here.

15. Next up: A home game with the Portland Trail Blazers, on Thursday, followed by a road game against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. Two very winnable games as the Cavs are clearly better than both. If they can take care of business, they could find themselves right up near the top of the Eastern Conference — just as they were for the majority of last season.

16. Obviously, with this team, good health comes good things. I asked Mobley about that after the game, and he said it is indeed easier to get into a rhythm when you have all your key parts for a decent stretch. Of course, Mitchell knocked on wood when I asked, and you can’t blame him. But as of now, things are starting to look fairly promising and the Cavs are getting closer to being the team they believe they can be.

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