Dribbles: Cavs Show Their Will, Find A Way In Win Over Wizards

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 92-86 home win over the Wizards on Saturday.

1. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff recently said he wished the Cavs wouldn’t wait until the final few minutes before turning up the intensity. But on this night, you can bet he’ll take it.Isaac Okoro

2. For most of the game, the Cavs couldn’t get anything going on offense. That didn’t really change much at the end. So they turned up the defense.

3. Hey, now there’s an idea.

4. With 5:20 left in the game, the Cavs trailed by nine. They held the Wizards to two the rest of the way. See what we mean by turning up the defense?

5. And what a job Isaac Okoro did on Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma at the end. For some reason, Kuzma (34 points) often looks like a future Hall-of-Famer vs. the Cavs. Okoro made him miserable in those final four or five minutes.

6. Basically, there were a number of reasons the Cavs were able to steal this one. But Okoro locking in may have been the biggest. And if not the biggest, then certainly the most underrated.

7. Offensively, it was mostly the Lauri Markkanen Show in his second game back from an ankle sprain. In his first, he scored 22. In this one, he went for 23, and his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter enabled the Cavs to survive.

8. Markkanen couldn’t buy a regular two-pointer (0-of-9). But he was on fire from beyond the arc, knocking down 6-of-9 threes. In the last two games combined, he’s scored 20 points in the fourth quarter.

9. With the Cavs missing Darius Garland, Caris LeVert and Rajon Rondo, both shot-creating and shot-making are a major chores. So yes, the Cavs are thanking the basketball gods for Markkenan.

10. Not to be forgotten was the performance of Jarrett Allen, who finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He went 7-of-8 from the field, and along with Evan Mobley, knocked down a couple of big free throws in the game’s most critical moments (with one from Brandon Goodwin sandwiched in between).

11. Markkanen to Bally Sports Cleveland’s Serena Winters on the win: “That’s what we do. When we struggle a little bit offensively, we know we need to step it up on defense.”

12. Along with Okoro hounding Kuzma, the Cavs’ length really disrupted Washington in the final 12 minutes. Allen, Mobley and Markkanen either altered, swatted or otherwise disrupted shots with the outcome in the balance.

13. Bickerstaff on what led to the win: “It was the grind. It was individuals who made up their mind that they were gonna impact the outcome. They knew where we are (with all the key injuries) at this point, and that every game we win is gonna have to be at the done defensive end.”

14. Cedi Osman came off the bench to offer energy and an underrated 19 points. Mobley finished with 14 and 11 boards. 

15. Granted, with Garland and LeVert sidelined, the Cavs (36-24) will need someone besides Markkanen to become a regular and reliable scorer. Kevin Love (four points, 1-of-10 shooting) will need to be better. Hopefully for the Cavs he will be able to find the range in the season’s final stretch. They Cavs are going to need him.

16. But that’s just nitpicking at this point. All that matters is the Cavs snapped a three-game skid and learned that, yes, they can win while they wait for some of their top guns to heal. It’ll just take a little grit and a whole lot of defense.

17. Daniel Gafford added 14 points for the Wizards (27-32), who are still alive in the race for the play-in tournament. That said, it’s hard to like their odds without Bradley Beal. On the bright side for the Wizards, new acquisition Kristaps Porzingis is expected to suit up soon.

18. Allen with the final word: “My role is to get everybody in the right place, get everybody where they need to, make sure I’m talking to them on the defense, and close it out with a rebound.” And a win.

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