Random dribbles on the Cavaliers …
1. So, what to make of the Cavs, who have lost two of their last three?
2. I blame the injuries, and the schedule. And the fact this is the NBA and you’re not going to win them all. In fact, you’re gonna lose a bunch. But these Cavs are also winning more than a bunch.
3. The latest defeat came Monday at Toronto. The Cavs didn’t have Jarrett Allen, or Kevin Love, or Lamar Stevens, who has become a key part of the rotation. In fact, Stevens could flourish against the physical, high-energy Raptors. He’s the perfect counter.
4. Along with that, Donovan Mitchell (eight points) played his worst game since coming to Cleveland. Mitchell looked tired. The Raptors were all over him. It just wasn’t his night. Again, welcome to the NBA. This is how it goes. Not every night is a masterful performance.
5. As Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com wrote, at least this trip to Toronto didn’t cost anyone an eye. That’s what happened in the season-opener when Darius Garland got accidentally poked by the Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. That was more than a month ago. Garland’s eye still doesn’t look right.
6. The Cavs (13-8) have just barely hit the quarter point of the season. They’ve had their fair share of injuries. It seems like a lot of teams have. Part of that is medical staffs just being overly cautious in the early part of the season. Not saying that’s the case with the Cavs. And even if it were … well, fine. Make sure guys are healthy when it means the most.
7. The loss to Toronto could be chalked up to the Cavs playing the previous night in Detroit. That game was actually closer than the final score. The starters played a lot of minutes. Toronto is a physical, pesky, bunch. They have great length and tireless legs. Going into their building on the second night of a road back-to-back? Yeah, a sure sign of trouble.
8. You can look at it like the Cavs have lost two of three. But you can also say they have won five of seven. Both are true. They are likely the team that’s won five of seven.
9. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff summed up the loss this way: “The Raptors are a very good basketball team. They’ve obviously had a ton of injuries and been missing key guys. I think that is why their record (11-9) is what it is. But they’re a very good basketball team. I think we’re a very good basketball team. Would be great to match when we’re all healthy and see what happens.”
10. For the record, the Cavs are finally done going to Toronto. They play the Raptors twice more — both in Cleveland. Lots of other arenas have more history, from Madison Square Garden to whatever the Celtics’ home court is called these days. But I think Toronto is the toughest. Those fans are insane in a good way. The refs often seem intimidated by it.
11. Anyway, back to the Cavs. Yes, Mitchell is allowed to have an off night and play like an actual human being, as opposed to an MVP candidate. Guess what? It’s bound to happen again this season.
12. Bickerstaff on Mitchell’s night: “Always give the Raptors credit. But I think there were shots that Donovan had that Donovan takes and makes typically. I think it was just one of those nights.”
13. Of greater concern is probably the play of Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert. Neither can get it together. They have stretches — but the consistency is missing. LeVert still can’t make shots, just seems out of sorts. And in Year 3, there are still too many nights where it seems Okoro is just sort of out there. Sometimes, he hurts the team. It too often feels like the Cavs are forcing it with Okoro.
14. Meanwhile, Garland still turns the ball over too much. It’s OK to make the simple pass. Not everything has to be Instagram-worthy. Other than that, he’s fantastic. It’s also good to see Evan Mobley shining from time to time. The Cavs just want more consistency. We can all assume that will come in time.