Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 118-95 road rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
1. Imagine if the Cavaliers hadn’t lost that one game to the Milwaukee Bucks at the beginning of 2024. They’d be on a 17-game winning streak right now. That’s all I kept thinking when I watched the Cavs pick apart the Nets.
2. Second night of a back-to-back, on the road, and the Cavs looked as if they had as much energy as anytime this season. Unbelievable.
3. Anyway, back to that loss against the Bucks. It took place in Milwaukee. The Cavs haven’t lost since. Before that loss, they’d won eight in a row. Now, they’ve done it again.
4. Remember when everyone was freaking out about their clunky start and home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers?
5. Yeah, me neither.
6. As it stands, the Cavs (34-16) have won 16 of 17 and remain in first place in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference (behind Boston). It’s not going to get the national attention of a LeBron James-led team, but Cleveland is the hottest team in the NBA. Whether the national media recognizes it or not is beside the point.
7. You can thank team basketball in the truest sense and a whole lot of Donovan Mitchell. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Cavs team where everyone was so comfortable with his role and had zero drama. And just took care of business like this team is doing.
8. And I covered a lot of years when James did play in Cleveland. But last time the Cavs had a regular-season stretch like this, LeBron was about 5 years old.
9. Back to the present day. The ball is moving — a lot. The shots are dropping. The players are entirely unified. It’s as if all the X’s and O’s on coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s chalkboard have sprung to life.
10. Mitchell again was amazing in scoring 27 points while forcing nothing. He went 10-of-18 shooting, with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three big blocks.
11. Everyone else played off of him and played well. Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen finished with 14 points apiece. Mobley grabbed 12 rebounds, Allen had 10 and Garland passed for a team-high seven assists. In a word, the so-called core four was dy-no-mite.
12. Georges Niang added 11 off the bench and Dean Wade scored nine on 3-of-4 shooting on threes. No one else put up big numbers but everyone contributed in some way toward the main goal. For these Cavs, it’s all just about getting the victory.
13. Things were a little close in the first half — but then the Cavs decided to suffocate the Nets and make every pass and shot a major chore. The result was a 21-0 run to blow things open in the third quarter.
14. In the second half, about the most exciting thing to happen was frustrated Nets guard Ben Simmons throwing Allen to the floor as they battled for position. Allen got up, ran over to Simmons and gave him a shove. Each received a technical. Within a minute, Allen could be seen laughing on the bench. Even the always professional Mobley cracked a smile. Garland seemed to have the time of his life about it.
15. Oh, that’s the other thing about the Cavs this season. You won’t be pushing them around. There’s been at least a little emphasis on being more physical, and it’s evident the Cavs are living up to that rally cry.
16. Garland to Bally Sports on the second half: “Our defensive intensity picked up a lot. (We) just tried to be more physical.”
17. He smiled widely when asked about the Allen-Simmons tiff. “That was great for us,” he said. “That was like a little boost. It was a different scene because JA was in a mix. We loved it. We love the energy that he gave … that gave us a lot of life.”
18. Ah, yes. Life. These Cavs do have it and it’s been on full display since the clock struck midnight on 2024.
19. Finally, yes, the trade deadline came and went without the Cavs making a move. Good. None needed. Not a single one. I can’t stress that enough. I don’t even think the Cavs need to worry about the buyout market.
20. Final word from Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman on the trade deadline: “We’re really happy and pleased with how we’ve been playing. Sometimes, you know me, I’m very active and do a lot of volume, but sometimes you don’t want to mess up a good thing. And so, we’re gonna roll with what we have and we’re excited about the group.”
21. The Cavs will attempt to make it nine in a row on Saturday, when they visit the Toronto Raptors.