Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 114-107 home win over the Nets on Monday.
1. It’s true that the Nets didn’t have Kevin Durant, perhaps the frontrunner for NBA MVP. But guess what? Not the Cavs’ problem. All they need to do is take care of what’s in front of them.
2. And for five straight games, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Not too shabby, huh?
3. Honestly, though, this version of the Cavs (27-18) is just a blast. As the Medina Gazette’s Rick Noland tweeted, they just play the game the right way. When a team does that, it’s beautiful basketball to behold.
4. Translation: If you love the NBA, you love these Cavs.
5. While Durant was out, fellow Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden did play. And there were some loud cheers when Irving bumbled the ball away at the end, leading to a Nets turnover and an Isaac Okoro dunk.
6. That’s not intended to poke fun at Irving, who played a major role in the Cavs winning a championship in 2016. It’s just to show that no moment is too big for this young Cleveland team. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has his guys believing they can win whenever, wherever and against whoever.
7. So yes, the Cavs are in the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It sounded silly to say that earlier this season. Most Cavs fans were just dreaming of a shot at the play-in game. But all season, this team has proved that it can believe in the unlikely.
8. The Cavs have 27 wins. The team with the East’s best record also has 27 wins. Difference is, the Bulls have played four less games and have four less defeats.
9. And guess who the Cavs play next? That’s right — the Bulls, Wednesday night in Chicago.
10. Anyway, back the Cavs. Darius Garland was outstanding for the third straight game, finishing with 22 points and 12 assists. He’s actually been very good all season, and you can count on him making the All-Star Game next month in Cleveland. He’s just been even better than usual lately.
11. Garland, by the way, was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week just before the game. “That’s cool. I’m more glad we got the win though,” he said.
12. Those awards really are for the fans, intended to create some buzz and little more. But the fact Garland became the second Cleveland player to win this season gives you an idea how balanced this team really is. (Jarrett Allen was the other.)
13. And this win did indeed feature plenty of balance on both ends. As usual, the Cavs got a lot of stops when they needed them most. Offensively, Okoro had a nice day with 15 points. Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love each scored 14. Evan Mobley added 12. Allen also pulled down 10 rebounds.
14. Bickerstaff on the victory: “It’s a signature win for us against a high-level team. Obviously with reasons why and excuses coming back off that long road trip and all those things, playing against two of the most elite players in our league, and our guys figuring out a way.”
15. Yes, the Cavs just got back from their longest trip of the season. Their 5-1 mark was their best record on a trip of at least six games since January 2015. That’s when You Know Who was still on the team. Love is the only guy left from the 2015 Cavs. He’s actually one of just several still in the entire NBA.
16. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was in attendance for the second time this season. Gilbert continues to take positive steps after suffering a stroke in May 2019.
17. Irving led the Nets (27-16) with 27 points and nine assists. He looked ad good as ever for a guy who is only playing in road games because of Brooklyn’s vaccine mandate. He indicated afterward he does not intend to get vaccinated. “I’m not bringing science into it,” Irving said. “I’m staying rooted in what I believe in.”
18. Finally, I have the latest on the Cavs rumors involving Pacers wing Caris LeVert at this link. And don’t forget to give us a Twitter follow @Wire_Hoops.
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