Dribbles: Cavs Scratch, Claw, Survive And Keep Good Thing Going

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ nail-biter of a 95-93 home win over the Knicks on Monday.

1. It wasn’t always pretty, and that’s OK. That’s just the way the Knicks like it. They want to muck up the game. They want to make it U-G-L-Y so the opponent has no alibi. Or something like that.Evan Mobley RJ Barrett Isaac Okoro

2. But a win is a win is a win, and for the Cavs, it’s the seventh win in eight games. That is all the record book and standings will show.

3. As you probably know, it wasn’t decided until Knicks forward Julius Randle missed an off-balance 30-plus-footer at the final buzzer. The shot wasn’t close. But it wasn’t until it hit the floor after air-balling that the Cavs could finally smile.

4. So many things went right for the Cavs, or at least enough did, as they were forced to play without center Jarrett Allen (illness) and forward Lauri Markkanen (ankle). That’s two tall timbers who start, leaving rookie Evan Mobley to hold down the frontcourt alongside Ed Davis and Dean Wade

5. But what do you know, Mobley, Davis and Wade all did their parts. 

6. Of course, none were as big as Kevin Love, who came off the bench to pour in 20 points and pull down 11 rebounds. Some of those points came off a major hot streak in the second half, as Love finished 6-of-12 shooting on 3-pointers. All of his makes and attempts were threes, in fact.

7. But again, this took an entire team, as Mobley finished with 15 points, Isaac Okoro had an underrated 14, and Wade and Darius Garland scored 13 apiece. Wade also hit some vital threes, and Garland passed for 12 assists for his 16th double-double of the year.

8. Yes, Mobley missed some important free throws at the end, finishing 3-of-7 from the line. But he also soared high to grab some critical defensive rebounds and alter several shots. Don’t let the missed foul shots fool you. The kid is a winner.

9. Okoro also swatted a shot off the backboard in perhaps the defensive play of the game. It was a great example of the grit and energy the Cavs so often used just to have as chance. They sometimes out-hustled and out-muscled an opponent that takes great pride in those aspects of the game.

10. As Garland told Serena Winters of Bally Sports, “It was hard-fought, dirty, nasty. Glad we came out on top.”

11. Yes, Wade hit a couple of big threes, and again, so did Love. But none were bigger than Garland’s corner three with 1:23 left to break a 91-all tie.

12. Not to be forgotten were the hustle plays made by Lamar Stevens, who cleaned the glass and battled his way to eight points. Rajon Rondo also offered eight points on 3-of-4 shooting.

13. Basically, this is how the Cavs (29-19) are winning these days. They are just finding a way, by any means necessary. They are believing until the end. They are creating their own good fortune. And now, they are 6-3 in games decided by three points or less.

14. Love is loving it. He appears to be enjoying his time in Cleveland more than ever. That’s saying something, given that he was a member of the 2016 title team.

15. Love to reporters on the state of things: “We’re the ultimate share-the-wealth team and I think that’s beautiful. … It allows us to play free and play for the next guy.”

16. RJ Barrett led the Knicks (23-25) with 24 points. Randle scored 18, and Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes had 13 and 12, respectively. Grimes was particularly tough in the second half, as the rookie went 4-of-6 shooting on threes.

17. Credit also again belongs to coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who used his 16th starting lineup of the season. He is finding a way to coax his team into fighting, scrapping, and forever believing. It’s made the Cavs one the two or three best stories of the season, and we’re now past the midway point. This is clearly sustainable. These are the 2021-22 Cavs. And you can’t help but get behind them.

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