Dribbles: Cavs Showed Fight, And Now, It All Comes Down To The Next One

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 115-108 road loss to the Nets in the play-in tournament on Tuesday.

1. For the Cavs, it was all about the first quarter. They got some good looks … they just didn’t drop. The Nets made everything, especially Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.Darius Garland Kevin Durant

2. It resulted in this score at the end of the first quarter: Nets 40, Cavs 20.

3. After that, the Cavs outscored the Nets by 13.

4. Not bad, given no one gave them a fighting chance against a veteran team on its own home floor. Durant and Irving have won championships, and it showed.

5. Other than Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo, no one on the Cavs has won a title. That also showed. But it only showed early. 

6. Translation: Man, this Cavs team just never dies. This organization has a lot — and I mean a lot — to feel good about. Despite a difficult loss, this game may have proved that more than any of them.

7. Yes, the Cavs looked a little overwhelmed early. Meanwhile, Irving and Durant looked like guys who have been on this stage plenty of times. That’s because they have.

8. Just the Cavs luck, huh? They end up playing an opponent that very well could emerge from the Eastern Conference and into the Finals. Heck, the Nets could win the title this year.

9. Now, though, the Cavs still have an opportunity to make their own luck. Next time, they play at home, against either the Hawks or Hornets. Win, and you’re in the playoffs. Lose, and it’s season over.

10. No pressure, right?

11. On the bright side, it sounds as if All-Star center Jarrett Allen has a shot to return from a broken finger on Friday. And man, the Cavs could have used him on this night. As my buddy John Sabol of WJW-TV tweeted, the Nets got so many easy baskets underneath. You’d think Allen would have changed all that.

 

12. I like the Cavs’ odds on Friday even without Allen. I really like those odds with Allen.

13. Darius Garland was fantastic, matching Irving with a game-high 34 points. It’s true that Garland only recorded five assists, but he created a lot of plays that eventually led to baskets. Mostly, the guy just never gave up the fight. That’s an important quality to have in a team leader.

14. Rookie Evan Mobley was also very good, recording 19 points and seven boards. He did not look like a young man playing in the biggest NBA game of his career. A seasoned veteran was more like it.

15. Love added 14 points and 13 boards, Lauri Markkanen scored 13 and Caris LeVert came alive late to tally 12 points.

16. Still, in order to win Friday, some of the other role players will need to make themselves seen and heard. That’s true even if Allen does return. But role players tend to play better at home, and that’s where the Cavs will be next.

17. That said, Allen with Mobley and Markkanen is what made the Cavs this season’s biggest surprise. 

18. I know. Great analysis. But it really can’t be understated.

19. As is generally the case, Durant was magnificent. It seemed every time the Cavs cut the deficit to six points — which they did often — Durant knocked down a shot. Again, that is a man who has won titles. This stage is nothing new, as evidenced by his 25 points and 11 rebounds.

20. So, that’s a wrap for now. The Cavs gave great effort once they shook off the nerves. Now, things get even more pressure-filled. These Cavs have shown they are plenty capable of meeting the next challenge.

21. By the way, should the Cavs win Friday, they will open the playoffs Sunday at Miami at 1 p.m. EST. Just so you’re aware.

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