Dribbles: Cavs looking different in a good way after stuffing Clippers

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers following their 92-79 road win over the Clippers on Wednesday …Collin Sexton

1. If you’re a fan of the Cavs, it’s OK to enjoy this. It’s OK to really like what you see. So go ahead. Forget that it’s early.

2. I’ll be honest, the Cavs have already won two more games on this five-game road swing than I predicted. And they’re only two games in.

3. The Cavs (3-2) have actually won three straight overall. They beat the Hawks, who reached the Eastern Conference finals last season. They beat the Clippers, who reached the Western Conference finals last season. And they beat the Nuggets, who reached the West finals the year before that.

4. Two of those victories came on the road, far from home (Denver and Los Angeles). That’s never easy for any team — much less a young team like the Cavs.

5. They could not win another game on this trip and it would still be considered a success. But if if they keep playing like this, they’re gonna win another. It honestly won’t be a problem.

6. So, how are the Cavs doing it? With chemistry, with speed, with defense and yes, with one of the NBA’s most unique lineups.

7. It’s true, as coach J.B. Bickerstaff starts 6-foot-11 Jarrett Allen at center, and 7-footers Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen at the forwards. Then he has a pair of 6-1 guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the backcourt.

8. Off the bench come oldies-but-so-far-goodies in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Most people were starting to write off those two older veterans (especially Love). But for the most part, they’re having their way with opposing reserves.

9. You knew all that already. But it’s fun to say out loud when it’s working. And right now, it is.

10. Or how about this — the Cavs never trailed against the Clippers. On the road. One game after beating the Nuggets in Denver. The Cavs were ripe for a letdown. Instead, they sped up.

11. Sexton played his best all-around game of the season, with 26 points on 12-of-20 shooting, seven rebounds and three steals. Oh, and one monster left-handed jam over helpless Clippers wing Nicolas Batum.

12. Sexton, though, talked defense after the game. “We didn’t give them any open looks,” he told Angel Gray of Bally Sports Cleveland. “We just made it tough and continued to fight until the end.”

13. They especially made it tough on Clippers leading scorer Paul George, who was suffocated into 6-of-20 shooting and just 12 points.

14. You could also tell that the Clippers were a bit intimidated (OK, really intimidated) by the duo of Allen and especially Mobley near the rim. Nearly half of LA’s field-goal attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc. Not many dropped.

15. Garland was unassuming for most of the night, but also pretty excellent. He finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, passing for six assists and forcing very little. He is becoming quite the shot-creator for his teammates, while remaining a scoring threat himself.

16. Rubio added 15 points, while both Mobley (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Love (10 and 10) recorded double-doubles.

17. I’d say this Mobley guy is gonna be pretty good, but he’s already there. His presence and skillset alone have made Cleveland a much better team. Period.

18. Meanwhile, Rubio has not only been big when it comes to contributing as an individual, but also in helping to develop the young guards. “Ah man, he’s huge for us,” Sexton told Gray. “He’s a leader, he’s the vet that we needed just to come in and give us that spark off the bench. And also just run the show, especially down the stretch when things start getting a little wild.”

19. So there you have it. A Cavs team that has been young, knows how to run and is having some early-season fun. That’s not so bad.

20. Of course, they’re staying right there in LA, as they pay a visit to LeBron James and his Lakers — who along with James and Anthony Davis, also now feature Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and others.

21. But James has missed the previous two games with a bum ankle, and it’s too soon to know if he’ll play. Right now, the Lakers (2-3) are struggling, too. They just blew a 26-point lead to lose to the lowly Thunder and have yet to mesh. They’d better be ready, though. The Cavs, clearly, are not to be taken lightly.

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