Dribbles: Cavs Slam Blazers, Break Even on Trip, and ‘We’ll Take It’

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ fairly easy 109-95 road win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday.Max Strus dunks vs. Blazers

1. Other than a highlight-worthy one-handed slam from Max Strus in the second half, this one was pretty much dullsville.

2. But that’s no fault of the Cavs, who came in, threw a couple of quick haymakers in the first quarter and were never really threatened. They took care of business, handled an inferior opponent, and then skipped town. 

3. That’s the way it should be against a struggling and wounded team like the Trail Blazers.

4. So the Cavs (5-6) finished their four-game trip with a mark of 2-2, winning two of three on the West Coast. They looked bad the other night against the Kings. They looked pretty good the game before that in beating the Warriors. They were just OK in losing to the Thunder at the start of the trip.

5. But hey, in an NBA where only about three or four teams are looking dominant early, the Cavs have to be pleased. To finish .500 on a trip when you’re missing Darius Garland (neck) for the final game, and Isaac Okoro (knee) for all of them … well, that’s a win.

6. Evan Mobley came out aggressive, taking it right at the Blazers and scoring 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter. I never believed Portland had a shot to win after that. Mobley finished with a strong line of 21 points, 8-of-11 shooting, and a game-high 12 rebounds.

7. Mobley’s first quarter set the tone, and not surprisingly, Donovan Mitchell carried the scoring the rest of the way, as he went for 34 points and was barely challenged. He admittedly had been struggling (for him), so this was a nice sort of practice game to get back on track.

8. Everyone else played well enough. Caris LeVert continued his strong start to the season with 17 points and just generally made things happen. Strus finished with 14 and a game-high seven assists. LeVert and Strus each finished 1-of-7 on 3-pointers, but you have to like how they stayed aggressive and kept looking for ways to score close to the hoop. LeVert also grabbed eight boards.

9. Of course, my Stat of the Night Award goes to Jarrett Allen — who scored 11 points, and did so on just 3-of-3 shooting. Very typical of him.

10. Allen also grabbed nine rebounds and again cheered wildly when the Cavs were called for defensive three seconds. All of it was highly admirable.

11. By the way, how long before Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups is on the hot seat? None of this is his fault, of course. The Blazers traded away Damian Lillard, went young, and have suffered countless injuries to boot. 

12. But I’ve been around the NBA long enough to know that in these situations, the coach is often the fall guy. And the Blazers (3-8) are indeed a dumpster fire right now.

13. Anyway, back to the squad from Cleveland. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff had this to say to reporters: “We scrapped it out at the end of a long road trip, which can be difficult. We did things well in spurts and … it’s over with.”

14. Sounds like he found this one about as riveting as the rest of us. That’s a joke. Sort of.

16. Strus to Bally Sports: “We got the job done, we got the win on the road, split the trip. We’ll take it.”

17. So, enough about all that and on to what’s next. That would be no less than the sad-sack Pistons in another edition of the In-Season Tournament. This time, it’s in Cleveland, on Friday, and let me tell you, the Cavs have the best “special” court of anyone. Their floor looks like an actual basketball surface, as opposed to something that the Smurfs might use.

18. That said, I’ve always been a sucker for marketing and packaging, and these bright red and blue courts actually make me smile. In 10 years, we’ll be looking back at them and laughing. Or maybe you are laughing already. But I do love them. I’m just glad we don’t have to stare at one in Cleveland.

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