Dribbles: Cavs’ Resolve Not Missing, But Bodies Are In Loss To Nets

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 109-99 road loss to the Nets on Wednesday … 

1. You don’t often feel OK with defeat, no matter in what form it comes. But this was far from awful, or as bad as it could been. Nobody expected the Cavs to win and really, they had no chance. They were just too undermanned.Ricky Rubio

2. That said, there were plenty of things to like — despite the fact there was no Evan Mobley (elbow), no Jarrett Allen (illness), no Lauri Markkanen (protocols) and still no Collin Sexton (knee). That’s four of the five guys who opened the season as starters.

3. Instead, coach J.B. Bickerstaff rolled out Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio in the backcourt, Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade at forwards, and Ed Davis at center.

4. I would venture to say a lot of Cavs fans didn’t even know Davis was on the team. Before Wednesday, he had appeared in just three of the first 14 games.

5. Davis (six points, 11 rebounds) had a nice night for someone who’s usually buried deep on the bench, but that was far from the best thing about this night. The best thing was that the Cavs scrapped, and clawed, and stuck to their identity despite missing so many key components.

6. As Cavs legend Campy Russell said on Bally Sports Ohio, the Cavs “are a team that truly understands who they are.”

7. Going up against the likes of Kevin Durant and James Harden, the undermanned Cavs trailed by 22 points in the first half. It was over. … Or so we thought.

8. But with 4:43 left in the game, the Cavs had cut the deficit to seven. That is the sign of a strong teamwide mentality. That is the sign of an opponent that you don’t want to see coming, regardless of who’s missing.

9. And that is precisely the type of team Bickerstaff said he wanted the Cavs to be entering the season.

10. As usual in these types of us-against-the-world situations, Rubio (25 points, five assists) led the way. Garland (24 and six, respectively) was very good, too.

11. Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Wade also each scored 11, but offensively, the Cavs just didn’t have the firepower. They missed everyone, but especially Mobley, who has done it all on both ends of the court. It would’ve been nice to see him match up with Durant.

12. Yes, this was Love’s first game since Oct. 30, and he also contributed eight rebounds in 21 minutes. Clearly, his conditioning isn’t totally there, and that’s OK. Hopefully for the Cavs, Markannen won’t be far behind in his own return.

13. The Cavs (9-7) actually out-rebounded the Nets by a 50-47 count. When that happens, you generally win. Either way, it shows the type of effort the Cavs put forth, and again, their overall resolve.

14. It will only get tougher from here. No less than the Warriors come to town Thursday. But if the Cavs can play like they did in the final two quarters vs. the Nets, hey, you just never know.

15. Bickerstaff on that very subject: “We can’t be anybody else. We can’t be the Brooklyn Nets. We can’t be the Golden State Warriors. We have to be the Cleveland Cavaliers and play Cavaliers basketball all the time. I thought we did that in the second half. That’s the lesson for us — continue to be the best version of ourselves.”

16. Harden led the Nets (11-5) with 27 points and LaMarcus Aldridge was a major Cavs killer off the bench with 24. Durant scored 23, Patty Mills had 21 and Kyrie Irving was still nowhere to be found.

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