Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 109-108 home loss to the Jazz on Sunday.
1. When doesn’t a loss really feel like a loss? Well, when this season’s Cavs are playing.
2. It’s true that losing stinks. It’s true that the Cavs had their chances against one of the NBA’s best teams, a veteran and well-coached team that finished with the league’s best record last season.
3. So no, there really aren’t any moral victories in pro sports. At least, that’s the way the Cavs see it. But once again, I’m going to give them a pass. They competed, didn’t fold when falling back by 15, and came within an inch — twice — of winning.
4. Are there things that could be cleaned up? Well, sure. You can say that about most every team in most every game. Either way, the Cavs (13-11) entered Sunday riding a four-game wining streak and lost by a point. It’s hard to complain.
5. Cedi Osman to reporters: “Obviously, we’re happy with the way we played. We didn’t give up, that’s not in our character. They’re a championship-caliber team. But we showed that tonight we’re not going to give up.”
6. Osman played a big role in the second-half rally, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and a couple of steals. One of those steals was completed with an emphatic fast-break dunk.
7. For the Cavs, the brightest star was again no less than Darius Garland. He erupted for 31 points, five assists and went 5-of-8 shooting on 3-pointers. Garland scored 32 in Friday’s blowout road win over the Wizards. If the All-Star Game were today, he’d be in. Or at least should be.
8. Sadly, Garland’s long three with about 4 seconds left bounced off the front of the rim. Cavs big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley each had a desperate chance to tip it in, though the angles were a bit awkward and it wasn’t meant to be.
9. Allen was again strong despite having to deal with Utah tower Rudy Gobert, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Mobley went for 14 points, 12 boards and a one massive swat of Donovan Mitchell shot at the rim.
10. Man, that kid can pass too. He’s just a rookie, but you can always count on Mobley to make the right play.
11. Ricky Rubio finished with 15 points off the bench, returning to his better-than-solid run of early in the season.
12. That said, I would have liked to see Osman in at the end, as opposed to Isaac Okoro (six points on 2-of-9 shooting), only because Osman was hot. But given the overall excellent coaching job done by J.B. Bickerstaff this season, who am I to question his decision-making? Lauri Markkanen (nine points) and Kevin Love (1-of-6 shooting) also seemed a step slow most of the afternoon.
13. Defensively, the Cavs allowed the Jazz to shoot a sizzling 20-of-43 on threes, and as Bickerstaff noted afterward, that’s a tough stat to overcome. Yet the Cavs almost did anyway.
14. Bickerstaff on the outcome: “Give our guys a ton of credit. They were there at the end and had an opportunity to win.”
15. Mitchell led the Jazz (16-7) with 35 points, Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 and Gobert only scored six, but grabbed a whopping 20 rebounds. This is a disciplined, selfless and well-coached team under Quin Snyder that can really go places.
16. It won’t get any easier for the Cavs, of course. Now they get the defending NBA champion Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. But in games you used to count them out … well, that’s not just the Cavs anymore. “We never give up,” Rubio said. “We’ve been in every single game of the season.”