Dribbles: Cavs Make Game of In-Season Tourney Opener, But Doomed by Sloppy Start

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ hard-fought 121-116 road loss to the Pacers on Friday.Donovan Mitchell drives against Bruce Brown

1. On the bright side, the Cavs won’t ever have to play on that special all-blue court again. At least, I’m assuming that’s the case, but I still don’t really understand this In-Season Tournament business.

2. If the Cavs had even brought their B-minus game to the first half, they just might have pulled this one off. But despite having all five starters for the first time all year, they stumbled and bumbled and couldn’t do much right early.

3. Those things could be related. Sometimes, the first game with all your starters can be a bit rocky. Guys just got used to playing with other teammates. In the Cavs’ case, you brought in two new ones at the same — Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. This of course was Allen’s first game of any sort of the season/preseason.

4. I’m not trying to make excuses, as the Cavs don’t need any. They were bad in the first half, really good in the second. That’s the bottom line and you will again see moments like both halves in the next 76 games.

5. Yes, there are 76 games to go. Sometimes I wish fans would remember that before screaming on social media to fire the coach or trade somebody. The Miami Heat made the Finals last season. Anyone can do it. It’s a marathon. And this is far from a bad loss.

6. At one point in the first half, the Cavs trailed by 17. They fought with all their might in the third quarter and played with a renewed intensity to take the lead. The first part was perplexing. The second was admirable.

7. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters in Indianapolis: “We played the tale of two halves tonight. In the first half, we had guys trying to figure out where they fit. Having not played (together) this season changes the dynamics of everybody on the floor. Minutes change, roles change, shots change.”

8. At halftime, Bickerstaff told the players to “just play within the team and it will work out,” he said. The Cavs responded and gave themselves a chance.

9. But again, they had to come back from being down 17. And the Pacers are no joke. “Down 17 … now you have to be perfect,” Bickerstaff said. “Playing against a dynamic offensive team like the Pacers, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

10. That about sums it up.

11. Still, the Cavs had a chance until Caris LeVert missed a 3-pointer that would’ve tied it with 7.8 seconds left. It was a good look. The ball just wouldn’t cooperate.

12. Donovan Mitchell was again magnificent with 38 points and a team-high nine assists. Garland returned to score 14. Evan Mobley also had 14 with 10 rebounds and some strong defense. LeVert added 13 points off the bench and Georges Niang scored 12. Allen finished with 10 points and seven boards in his season debut.

13. Basically, the Cavs (2-4) had their moments and you could see their promise, just as you did in the opener against the Nets and win over the Knicks. This one just started much too poorly.

14. Ball Sports play-by-play man John Michael did a really nice job of explaining what this loss means as far as the In-Season Tournament is concerned. I still don’t understand it. I think in order to qualify for the tournament portion the Cavs likely will have to win out in Group play.

15. But don’t quote me on that.

16. All I know is the Cavs get to host Stephen Curry and the Warriors on Sunday, and the Warriors are again looking sharp. After that, it’s a four-game trip, including three on the West Coast. Translation: This is only about to get more difficult.

17. Myles Turner (27 points) was downright unstoppable for Indiana in the first half. Tyrese Haliburton (18 points, 13 assists) is always very good and knocked down some big free throws at the end. Bruce Brown added an underrated 19.

18. That’s it for now. No reason to panic for the Cavs. Just have to sharpen things up a little. That’s the bad news. The good, again, is they have 76 games to do so.



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  1. For another night, we have the more talented team, and get outcoached.

    BJ’s a good guy. But he’s not the guy.

    Players are ahead of him. And there is a void in what they really need from him. Experienced leadership at the highest level. Refs don’t respect him, he still hasn’t figured out how to speak to them. And his narratives about this team and its players are the foundations of dead end excuses that will hold team back if something isn’t done sooner than later.

    Watching him on the sidelines is like watching a boxer who is only in the ring to survive long enough to look like a boxer. I see the clapping, the cheering, the pats on the butts, the stuff that looks like stuff a coach does. I am not seeing the engagement into reacting to what’s happening in real time.

    Time outs? Why is Donavan Mitchell waiving the coach over to hurry up and give them a plan? How long does that coaching staff need to discuss with each other during the timeout before getting with the players?

    We have a good truck driver but we need a specialized and experienced race car driver at this point. It will be the details coming around the corner that need anticipated and handled without delay. Or it will continue to cost us in the win column. We have the wrong type of coach for this talented team.

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