Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 118-112 home win over the Pacers on Friday. …
1. When the Cavs want to turn it on, they can make it happen. Case in point: This game.
2. Some fans get annoyed with that. Sometimes, coach J.B. Bickerstaff may, too. Everybody wants to see the players in “on” mode for an entire game.
3. But the players are human. Some days, they are just feeling worn out. So sometimes, they coast. This isn’t exclusive to the Cavs. It’s been going on since the NBA tossed its first jump ball in 1946.
4. The good news is, the Cavs generally seem to win when they do go full throttle. It’s cost them a few times (like vs. the Clippers and Spurs). It has also worked out just fine.
5. Again, take Friday for example. The Pacers were shredding the Cavs’ vaunted defense, scoring at will, playing aggressively and even with a hint of arrogance. With about 9 minutes to go, Indiana held a 103-90 lead. It looked bleak.
6. Then the defense stiffened. Then the ball moved … and went through the hoop. Just when the Cavs got desperate, they became totally energized. So make it a 28-9 run to close the game.
7. That’s truly what you call “hitting the switch.” It’s not always ideal. But if you’re good enough, it can lift you to a win on an otherwise dreary night.
8. None of this is meant to imply the Cavs were being lazy or didn’t care for the first three-plus quarters. As Donovan Mitchell told Bally Sports, they just were a bit sluggish, perhaps because of a late-arriving flight from Dallas. If you remember, the Cavs beat the Mavericks on their own floor Wednesday.
9. So in this one, it was just about digging deep and finding a way.
10. Or as Mitchell told Bally Sports, “Resiliency. That’s what did it. … We all did it together as a group.”
11. That is very true. This truly was a team-wide effort. Most of the Cavs’ wins are. Still, Mitchell was again remarkable as an individual, erupting for a game-high 41 points on 14-of-24 shooting.
12. Meanwhile, there was also this simple-yet-direct description of what happened in the fourth quarter from Bickerstaff: “We started playing.”
13. Yeah, that about sums it up.
14. Darius Garland added to the cause with 20 points and 10 assists. He went 8-of-8 on free throws and also collected an underrated six rebounds. Evan Mobley also had a nice night with 16 points and nine rebounds.
15. Cedi Osman scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting one game after not getting off the bench. That’s called being a pro and staying ready. Caris LeVert tacked on 12 points and seven boards, including a critical offensive rebound in traffic late.
16. Other essentials: The Cavs (19-11) were 28-of-32 from the line, an underrated stat line when it comes to close games. They need to do more of that. Also, they cooled off the Pacers to 31 percent 3-point shooting by the end.
17. The Pacers (15-15) are no joke, by the way. Point guard Tyrese Haliburton (17 points, 14 assists) looks like he may be on his way to the All-Star Game. Guard/forward Bennedict Mathurin (22 points) looks like a Rookie of the Year finalist. And Rick Carlisle is a fantastic coach. Their time is coming.
18. For the Cavs, guess what’s next? Yep, another game against Luka Doncic and the Mavs, who will be out for revenge, right back at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Saturday. This is the NBA, so you never really can get too pleased with yourself — because there’s always another game. No matter, this was a good win, one the Cavs can build on.