Dribbles: Cavs Not Actually on Nets’ Level Yet, And That’s OK

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 125-117 home loss to the Nets on Monday. …Darius Garland Kyrie Irving

1. It’s safe to say the Cavs aren’t as good as the Nets. It’s just that simple. At least, not the Nets when they’re finally focused on basketball and clicking.

2. Let’s face it, that’s where the Nets are today. They are doggone good. The Cavs are good too. They’re just not Brooklyn good.

3. The Nets have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They are veterans who have played in huge games and won championships. Aside from Kevin Love, now a reserve, the Cavs don’t have anyone like that.

4. And guess what? That’s OK. They’re not supposed to yet.

5. Frankly, the way the Nets look these days, you have to think they’re plenty capable of winning a championship. They have stars in Durant and Irving and sometimes Ben Simmons, who created absolute havoc defensively on Monday. That’s his specialty. He’s finally delivering.

6. The Nets also have experience and depth and size. The latter showed, as Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley really struggled.

7. Mobley was fantastic in the first three months of his career. Aside from a few games here and there, he really hasn’t blossomed since. Maybe these things aren’t related — but Mobley stopped looking like the next Kevin Garnett about the same time Ricky Rubio went down.

8. Anyway, the loss isn’t a big deal. The Cavs (22-13) are about what we thought they were. They have a very good team that was never built to contend for a title this season. The Nets are. We knew all that before the first jump ball of 2022-23.

9. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters: “I believe we can play with these teams. I think we did enough to give me confidence in that. I think we just waited too long to believe we could. You allow a team to get out to a lead like we did and it’s going to be difficult to come back and you have to be almost perfect. No matter the opponent, we’re capable of winning and we are capable of beating them.”

10. I agree. But right now, the Cavs aren’t built to beat the Nets four out of seven times. 

11. Cleveland needs wing shooting. There’s a reason Lamar Stevens, Isaac Okoro and Mobley are always open over there. Opposing defenses are begging them to shoot it. Mobley should never take that shot. Making one out of every six or seven isn’t good enough. Take ’em down low, big man.

12. I don’t have anything to back this up, but I sometimes think someone other than the Cavs’ coaching staff told Mobley he needs to extend his range. That may be true — eventually.

13. Right now, he needs to start getting back to being more comfortable close to the basket and in the mid-range. He flourished in those areas when he first came to the NBA. Teams adjusted, and too often, Mobley just looks sloppy down there. His little jump hooks are always short. He’s a gifted player. But he needs to get stronger down there and stop thinking so much.

14. That’s not to pick on or try to coach Mobley. But I’ve been covering the NBA for 20 years. I know what it looks like when a guy is inconsistent and when he’s taking advice from someone other than the coaches. That’s OK. You have a lot of people in your ear as an NBA player. It’s just important to listen to the right advice.

15. Darius Garland (46 points, 14-of-20 shooting) was absolutely fantastic. It was his best game of the season, better than the 51-point eruption vs. the Timberwolves. Others around him need to raise their level of play in games like these. You can be confident they will. The Cavs’ day is coming.

16. Donovan Mitchell (15 points, 5-of-16 shooting) struggled offensively, but the Nets had a lot to do with that. They tried to take the ball out of his hands. They tried to force him into extremely tough shots. They succeeded. But I still loved the effort and All-Star desire.

17. Mitchell on that very topic: “Credit to them, they pretty much, every time I gave the ball up, kind of face-guarded me. That’s kinda been the case the past two games. Granted, I haven’t played to my capabilities and that’s on me. I let the team down in that way.”

18. Again, Mitchell is just fine and so are the Cavs. Again, the Nets (22-12) are just better. Durant and Irving each scored 32 to lead the way. T.J. Warren, an underrated offseason pickup, tacked on 23.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The morning of this Cavs loss a Cleveland dot com headline read: The only loser in the Celtics Cavs trade 5 years ago is Kyrie Irving.

    I didn’t click on it.

    When the basketball headline looks more like the writer watches and respects the game, I click on it. Thank you Sam.

    I was just thinking about the Cavs wing. Although Okoro’s role is important to have on this roster, and I think we should hold on to him, the Cavs do need another look from that spot. I believe Cavs could use a long bodied (see and reach over and around guys) type of orchestrator / elite passer. Almost like oil for all these high tech engines we got burning and producing for us on the offense. Providing that synergistic dynamic, the guy you give and go with if you’re Mitchell or Mobley. A guy who reads minds and is on the same page as our other players with some smart play. A Joe Ingles type. I’m thinking Joe Ingles. But Bucks wouldn’t trade with us.

    It’s sort of what Rubio does for us. I don’t know his coming back status but think I’ve read he doesn’t have much left in the tank. If we could get the same stuff out of a regular rotation guy at the three spot that would be ideal. Because our big gun talent is at all the other positions. That type of 3 is like a wall to bounce the ball off to get around the guy that’s guarding you.

    Trying to think of who else in the league could play like that from there. Any ideas?

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