Dribbles: Cavs’ Rise Not Enough, With Play-In Tourney Likely in Cards

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ heartbreaker of a 112-108 home loss to the 76ers on Sunday.

1. There really are no words. The Cavs had their chances. The first was taken away by an apparent no-call when Darius Garland drove to the basket late in the game and Sixers center Joel Embiid appeared to commit a foul. No call, soon to be Sixers with the ball.Darius Garland

2. Later, with the Cavs down by three, Kevin Love went to inbound a pass after a timeout. It was picked off by Sixers guard Matisse Thybulle, one of the NBA’s best defenders. What a terrible time for Love and the Cavs for Thybulle to prove that truth.

3. No Jarrett Allen, no Evan Mobley, and for the Cavs (43-36), almost no chance for the regular playoffs. Instead, if they want to experience a first-round series, they will have to get there via the play-in tournament.

4. Not ideal, but certainly doable. And far from a disappointment. No one expected the Cavs to even get this far. But that doesn’t really make it feel like any less of a disappointment. Had they been entirely healthy even 50 percent of the season, they may be sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

5. Instead, they’re in seventh with three games to go. Translation: That’s likely where they will stay.

6. Now, if this had been the very recent good old days … no problem. They’re in the playoffs. But that was then, this is now, and the Cavs will have to earn it.

7. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters: “Darius was fouled. It’s simple. He was fouled. I don’t know what else — he did his job, got to his spot and got fouled. No whistle.”

8. More Bickerstaff: “The ball is in Darius’ hands and he has the ability to make all those shots. You pull Embiid away from the basket first and then give him an opportunity to attack, I like Darius’ chances there. He’s proven time and time again that he can make that shot.”

9. Instead, Embiid seemed to hit Garland’s arm, and Garland’s shot it the backboard — and nothing else.

10. You don’t need to read the AmicoHoops twitter notifications to know that Cavs fans weren’t happy with the officiating. But if you did, you know those fans couldn’t even keep it PG-13. And frankly, you can’t blame them. This was an emotional loss.

11. More Bickerstaff: “We deserved to win that game. That game was taken from us. We deserved to win i. We did a great job defensively, of making their two best players (Embiid and James Harden) have a difficult time from the field. But one thing you can’t defend is the free throw line. And that’s absurd. Our guys deserve way better than what they got tonight.”

12. Bickerstaff will likely be fined by the league office for those thoughts. But they’re warranted.

13. Garland led the way with 23 points — though he compiled just four assists. Thybulle always does a nice job on him. That’s especially true when there’s no Allen or Mobley to bail out Garland.

14. Caris LeVert and Lamar Stevens added 18 points apiece, and Lauri Markkanen added 16. There were good efforts all the way around. Bickerstaff is right. The Cavs probably deserved to win. But those are the breaks, and the Cavs have had a lot of those lately. Not very many of them have been favorable, though.

15. Embiid erupted for 44 points and 17 rebounds. No one can contain him. But Allen and Mobley, with Markkanen, at least could have made Embiid work a little more. Harden scored 21 to go with 10 boards and 10 assists.

16. If you’re the Cavs, all you can do is try to take care of business in the final three games, and hope for a little help. That probably won’t be enough to avoid the play-in. And that’s OK.

17. Bickerstaff with the final word: “We just have to focus on what we did right. We can’t allow what happened tonight to dictate our future. And our guys will take the good from this. I thought, again, we did a lot of really good things.”


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