Dribbles: Cavs Take One on Chin; Do They Have What it Takes to Bounce Back?

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 99-79 hammer job of a road loss to the Knicks in Game 3 of their playoff series.Donovan Mitchell is fouled by Julius Randle

1. Well, there’s no sense in sitting around and complaining about how terrible things went. The Cavs shrunk in the moment.

2. Welcome to the NBA playoffs, inexperienced core.

3. Darius Garland (10 points, 4-of-21 shooting) followed a career night in Game 2 with his worst night of the past two seasons. This is where the playoffs can really get to younger teams — on the road.

4. Garland was bad, Evan Mobley (10 points, 10 rebounds) looked overmatched, and I have a hard time remembering Jarrett Allen (six points) was even on the court.

5. Donovan Mitchell (21 points) was OK, but I’d define his overall night as “meh.” Caris LeVert at least impressed at times, and if it weren’t for him, the Cavs may have lost by 40. But even LeVert was only good for half, scoring all 17 of his points in the final two quarters.

6. With LeVert in the starting lineup, the Cavs are getting zilch from the bench. I’m all for LeVert as the starter, by the way. Isaac Okoro is in Year 3 and too often is still just sort of running around out there. To be fair, I did think Okoro made the most of the 12 minutes he played in Game 3. 

7. As for the rest of the reserves, I have no idea what coach J.B. Bickerstaff is supposed to do or who he should play. Ricky Rubio looks completely done, Danny Green looks mostly done and Cedi Osman will be this guy forever. You never know which player will show up.

8. Just as was the case in Game 1, the Knicks got too many second-chance points. For two of the three games, they have been tougher, more physical, more aggressive. They have played the coach Tom Thibodeau way.

9. And if the Cavs play the Thibodeau way as they did in Game 3, this will again be the result.

10. Back to the bench. Clearly, president of basketball operations Koby Altman will need another transactional phase this summer and fix it before the Cavs can expect to get further in the playoffs. We’ve known that for most of the season. It’s proving us to be correct now.

11. There’s no sense in yammering on about this. The Cavs were terrible, and I have to say, I told everyone this was coming. Inexperienced teams generally aren’t the same in the playoffs. Knicks stars Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson have been on this stage before. Randle struggled shooting, but still made more winning plays than any of the Cavs.

12. For the record, I’m not singling out coaching. I’m not singling out Garland. I’m not singling out the rotation. This was a team-wide collapse in every sense and everyone deserves blame.

13. So, here’s where the Cavs stand — they MUST win Sunday. Then, they MUST win Game 5 back in Cleveland on Wednesday. Lose either, and it’s season over.

14. I expect the effort to be better on Sunday. I don’t expect the Cavs to get run out of the gym again. But do they have what it takes to actually win in such a hostile environment on the road? After Game 3, I truly have my doubts.

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