Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ impressive 99-87 road win over the Nuggets on Monday …
1. Well, that was fun. If the Cavs can play like that on a regular basis, this could be a season worth following along.
2. The starting lineup played smart, played hard, played with a purpose and looked cohesive. The reserves did their jobs, with Kevin Love (22 points, 8-of-13 shooting) and Ricky Rubio (seven points, eight assists) showing veteran leadership.
3. It’s true that Rubio was just 2-of-10 shooting, but he ran the offense and made the Cavs look like a winning team when he was out there. So did Love. I even joked that perhaps Love was auditioning for a job with the Nuggets, one of the few teams that recently has displayed trade interest.
4. But this isn’t about rumors, it’s about getting a win. And everyone contributed — from Jarrett Allen (21 points, 16 rebounds, 10-of-11 shooting) to Collin Sexton (14 points) to Lauri Markkanen (12 points) to yes, rookie Evan Mobley (10 points, eight boards).
5. Nor did it hurt to have Darius Garland back to keep things moving. Garland had missed a couple games with a bum ankle, but returned to give an underrated performance of nine points and seven assists. He forced nothing.
6. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff summed it up best. “We had a few moments where the intensity picked up, and we didn’t back down,” he told reporters. “Matter of fact, we kept stepping forward.”
7. The Cavs (2-2) displayed some tenacity and belief that we hadn’t seen. You don’t beat a team such as Denver on the road without those things.
8. More Bickerstaff: “Everybody was showing their commitment to one another, and they were all involved in the scrap and I think that’s the personality that this team has to have.”
9. I’ll be honest, I just assumed the Cavs would go 0-5 on this trip — which still includes visits to the Clippers, Lakers, Suns and Hornets. But they won on the first try, and admirably so.
10. And when we talk about grit, well, even Rubio went nose to nose with Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo. The tiff happened after Campazzo fouled Rubio near the 3-point arc, as Campazzo closed out to defend a Rubio fake. It looked suspicious. Rubio took exception.
11. Cooler heads quickly intervened, and that can only be considered a good thing. “That would’ve been one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen in my life,” Love joked.
12. Ah, yes. It truly was indeed a night for a good time, some unity, and maybe even a little laughter. Can the Cavs keep it going? And if not more nights just like this, then something similar? Hey, it could be lots of fun watching them try.
13. Defensively, Cleveland held Denver (2-1) to just 40 percent shooting, including a miserable 9-of-38 on 3-pointers. Some were just the Nuggets missing open looks. Some had to do with the Cavs’ defense, and that’s a step in the right direction.
14. Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic (24 points, 19 rebounds) was again fantastic, but on this night, the Cavs kept him from receiving much help.
15. Keep in mind that the Cavs led just 75-70 entering the fourth quarter. So when Bickerstaff talks about staying composed, he has evidence to support it. Usually, the fourth is when young teams tend to fold. For one night, the Cavs showed that doesn’t always have to be the case. Something to build off for sure.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) October 26, 2021