Dribbles: Cavs learn some hard lessons in stunning loss to Blazers

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ ugly 103-95 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.Darius Garland drives vs. the Trail Blazers

1. No one thought the Cavs would go undefeated just because all of their starters were healthy. But losing at home to the not-so-great Blazers? Yeah, not ideal.

2. The Cavs led by 16 points in the first half. It was at that point when one media member sitting next to me said, “This one’s over.” I didn’t argue.

3. It’s OK for writers and fans to think that way. But I think maybe the Cavs themselves did, too.

4. Yeah, not ideal.

5. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff took an extra long time in the locker room before meeting with the media after the game. Like, really, really long. Not a big surprise. This was a bad home loss.

6. Bickerstaff on his message: “Just trying to give an understanding of where we’re going and how to get there.”

7. That’s likely the G-rated version. What was said in the locker room was probably closer to PG-13 or R.

8. Portland (6-12) isn’t necessarily as big of a joke as you might think. The Blazers are coming off a win over the Indiana Pacers, also on the road. Before that, they nearly beat the Milwaukee Bucks … on the road. With veterans such as Jerami Grant, Malcolm Brogdon and Deandre Ayton, they have some guys who are used to success.

9. Still, this is the third of a five-game trip for the Blazers. They probably would have been willing to accept this as a “schedule loss.” Then they cut the Cavs’ 16-point lead to 46-40 at halftime. That’s probably when the Blazers thought, “Hey, let’s go see if we can win this thing.”

10. Next thing you know, the Blazers were up 12. That’s a 28-point swing. That’s not acceptable if you’re a team such as the Cavs, a team that has plans to contend in the Eastern Conference. They said they know that. Let’s see what they do about it.

11. And lots of early-season injuries or not, the Cavs (10-9) have done a lousy job of protecting home court. They’ve won just five of 11 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Last year, they finished 31-10 at home.

12. Donovan Mitchell tried to take over the game at the end, and you have to give the man an A for effort. He finished with 23 points — but struggled with his outside shooting most of the night, ending up just 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.

13. Evan Mobley also did his part with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds. Darius Garland added 15 points but again was way too sloppy with the ball, committing eight turnovers.

14. That’s the equivalent of your quarterback throwing four interceptions — and somehow, someway Garland has to get the message. If you don’t take care of the ball, you’re gonna lose some games you should never lose.

15. That’s not to pin this all on Garland. It was a teamwide meltdown in the truest sense. Fans booed the Cavs off the court because of it. 

16. Other numbers that tell this story: The Cavs were just 7-of-32 on threes. They didn’t necessarily settle, but they didn’t exactly get to the basket in the second half, either. At least not nearly enough.

17. Bickerstaff was uncharacteristically short with his answers after the game. Understandably so. You can tell he chose his words carefully. “We do the right thing, and good things happen,” he said. 

18. The Cavs didn’t do the right thing for much of the night. And they found out what happens with that, too.

19. Shaedon Sharpe led the Blazers with a game-high 29 points. The guy was just dynamite on his way to 11-of-15 shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. 

19. Is it panic time? Hardly. We’re not even at 20 games yet. That means there are 61 to go. What matters is the Cavs learn from a painful lesson such as this and respond.

20. Final word from Garland: “I mean, I think we all know that we’re a really good team, but sometimes we just have those lackadaisical days, and that’s where we have to grow.”

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  1. I’m Sorry,,, I posted on the game before you got your final “Dribbles” up.
    I was in a hurry to get this one “Off my chest” & out of my mind. —
    In keeping with Garland’s “lackadaisical days” comment, I decided, in case
    many were quickly moving along & missed My comment, to post it again, (since
    he really described so appropriately how I was viewing exactly what he said.)

    DR November 30, 2023 At 8:41 pm
    Mr Dariussss, the turnover machine has struck again.
    Trying to drive into 2-3 defenders & get up a shot, means, wait for it….
    …someone else IS OPEN.
    Just seems when they are good enough to get a double digit lead, then
    they can go into a coast mode & just throw it up NEAR the basket and it
    just might fall in….??? OR go with the casual type passes like in practice
    sessions or pardon the expression, just taking a “cavalier” attitude.
    Detroit might be easy, but Orlando, & the Heat will NOT!
    This rollercoaster is NOT easy to ride,,,, or watch.

    Addendum: True, It’s NOT Entirely Darius’ fault, But his untimely super zippy
    passes to an un-expecting receiver, dribbling the ball out of bounds, when the whole other side of the court is wide open, (NOBODY there), driving into Heavy traffic to toss up a brick that doesn’t fall in – those 12-TWELVE missed rim-rollers/bounce offs,- were each JUST as GOOD as another turnover.
    I’m not saying every shot should be made here by anybody, BUT his shot selection — 12 misses together with the 8 turnovers: result – IS 20 ! (easily a losing proposition)
    When Garland is IN his “lackadaisical” mode it quickly gets CONTAGIOUS to the Rest of the Team!! And that’s why it’s mostly his fault. And Bickerstaff’s Timeouts, are Always two possessions late in trying to contain that Contagion. Have to see it sooner & address it.
    A lot of talent there, they ARE good, but keeping it managed is quite the chore.

    Everybody DOES have off games, but It also seems to me,,, that both Garland & Mitchell’s 3 pt seems to be struggling quite a bit at times this year. ? ? ?

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