Dribbles: Cavs Remain Tons Of Fun, Even In Loss To LeBron, Lakers

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 113-101 road loss to the Lakers on Friday …

1. We’re only six games into the season, but I don’t care. I’m gonna go ahead and say it — if you’re not watching this Cavs team, you’re missing all the fun.<a rel=

2. And yes, I’m writing that after a 12-point loss. But I do so without a hint of hesitation.

3. Why? Because the Cavs didn’t even play their best game of the season, and for three-and-half quarters, they had LeBron James and the Lakers on the ropes.

4. Then, suddenly, the shots stopped dropping. The defense buckled. The legs looked tired. Beating the Lakers in the Staples Center is generally tough for anyone. For a young team such as the Cavs, it would’ve taken a basketball miracle.

5. And for a while, it seemed like they might pull it off anyway.

6. Granted, the shameless PR surrounding this team can be a little nauseating, but there really are reasons for hope here — and they were on full display for most of the night. I’d even say they were on display for all but about the final 6 minutes.

7. Then, when it came to winning time, the Cavs went cold. The Lakers’ experience showed, as James (26 points), Carmelo Anthony (24 points) and Anthony Davis (15 points, nine rebounds) made all the big plays. LA closed the game on a 23-10 run. Until then, it was just a 1-point deficit for Cleveland.

8. So on to the good …

9. For starters, Evan Mobley (23 points, 10-of-16 shooting) was fantastic, showing extreme polish for a rookie. Nothing seems to rattle the guy. He can pass, he can shoot, he can defend. He’s remarkably smooth. At this rate, he could eventually make a similar impact that the likes of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan once did. His upside just looks that bright.

10. This was also the best game of the season for Darius Garland (18 points, 11 assists). He dominated for long stretches, showing that having the ball in his hands can help change the course of the offense — and perhaps the franchise. If he plays like this consistently, we will understand why everyone is saying he’s due for a breakout season.

11. Lauri Markkanen (17 points, 7-of-14 shooting) had a strong first half, but like so many of the Cavs, faded in the final two quarters. Like so many of the Cavs, he just needed another shot or two to drop in the fourth quarter to have a banner night.

12. And let’s not forget Ricky Rubio. Man, that guy plays with some fire. He was brilliant for three quarters, and even went on a mini-hot streak. There were times he looked like an All-Star. In the end, Rubio had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

13. Meanwhile, you could tell the Lakers were very aware of Collin Sexton and his ability to put the ball in the hoop. They swarmed him at every opportunity. It resulted in a long night for Sexton, who finished with a mere nine points on a miserable 2-of-9 from the field. One of those misses was a layup attempt that LeBron swatted away in the chasedown fashion he made famous in Cleveland.

14. Sexton also missed a couple of blockouts on the defensive end that led to easy putbacks for Lakers. Overall, the Cavs were outscored by 19 when Sexton was on the court. 

15. That’s not to pick on Sexton. You can chalk it up to an off night. But had he even given a B-minus performance (for him), the Cavs may have stole this one.

16. Lamar Stevens also had a night to forget, missing three bunnies at the rim and finishing 1-of-7 shooting overall. He had as many fouls as points (three apiece).

17. I’m not about ready to write him off, but I’d still like to see a little more of Denzel Valentine when Stevens clearly doesn’t have it. Valentine didn’t come off the bench until late in the game, but immediately buried a 3-pointer. The Cavs could use more of those. They went 12-of-34 from beyond the arc for the night.

18. Of course, none of that will probably matter once Isaac Okoro returns from injury.

19. Jarrett Allen (six points, nine rebounds) had a quiet night in terms of the box score, but made an impact defensively, especially in the first half. He played a good game overall.

20. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists for LA. Along with the big names, it appears the Lakers got a good one in rookie guard Austin Reaves. He basically kept them in it in the first half with his hustle and heady play. Still, at halftime, the score was tied at 54-all.

21. LeBron offered some high praise on the Cavs, indicating he expects big things from them moving forward. This was his first game back after missing two with a sore ankle.

22. The Lakers are 3-3. The Cavs are 3-3. One team is extremely old/experienced and was playing at home. The other has a roster with an average age of about 22. With the way the Cavs have looked so far, I’m gonna have to agree with LeBron. The Cavs seemingly are well on their way.

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