Random dribbles after the Cavaliers’ thriller of 114-113 overtime win over the visiting Celtics on Wednesday …
1. Wow. Just wow. The Cavs and Celtics have put on two of the best regular-season displays we’ve seen in some time.
2. And the Cavs have won both.
3. And we’re not even 10 games into the season.
4. And both went into OT. This one didn’t end until Celtics star Jaylen Brown missed a jumper at the final buzzer.
5. So, yeah. Wow.
6. As ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said: “I want these two teams to play every night.” Former Cavs forward Richard Jefferson, also now of ESPN, called it “the best game of the year so far.” And NBA fans everywhere gave a hearty amen.
7. Keep in mind, the Celtics are the defending Eastern Conference champs. The Cavs are the new kids on the block.
8. But the new kids have won both matchups, twice in six days, and six straight overall. What’s not to like? “The Cavaliers are special,” Jefferson said on the ESPN studio set.
9. This one marked the return of Darius Garland, and anyone who saw his postgame interview can now understand why he was out for so long. His eye was still red, swollen, watery.
10. Yet he finished with 29 points on 9-of-20 shooting (including 5-of-11 on 3-pointers), passing for 12 assists. So, yeah. Welcome back, Darius.
11. As for the eye, Garland told ESPN he barely noticed it after making his first shot. It was indeed easy to forget, given his All-Star performance.
12. Then there was Donovan Mitchell, again, doing it all. When the Cavs (6-1) needed something, anything, Mitchell delivered. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has said the following about Mitchell a lot: “He just wasn’t going to let us lose.”
13. That applied here, as Mitchell finished with 25 points, six assists, four rebounds … and ZERO turnovers in 44 minutes. For a guy who handles the ball as much as Mitchell does, that last part may be the most remarkable.
14. Everyone else was basically way underrated. Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert each scored 15 important points. LeVert even grabbed eight rebounds. Jarrett Allen scored 14 and pulled down the same amount of boards. And man, he sure made a few big blocks and compiled multiple other altered shots.
15. Garland, Mitchell, Allen, Mobley and LeVert played the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime. You could tell they were dead tired at the end. That’s what makes this even more impressive. These Cavs are showing they understand how to just will their way to wins.
16. It’s a ways off, but that’s how you win the playoffs.
17. Along with everything else, not enough can be said about the progress being made by Dean Wade. He returned to his reserve role and only scored six points. But Wade and Kevin Love had a couple of plays that kept the Cavs’ momentum alive, despite otherwise off nights.
18. But it was Garland who won the Junkyard Dog award, and deservedly so. He did everything he did on Wednesday with about an eye and a half.
19. He admitted that he thought the worst after suffering the lacerated left eyelid in the first half of the season-opener vs. the Raptors, the Cavs’ only loss (and even that was just barely).
20. In fact, Garland indicated he thought he might need surgery, and would therefore be out several months. Luckily for the Cavs, it was only five games.
21. For the record, he only had one turnover himself. So Mitchell and Garland took care of the ball. In a game like this, that is everything.
22. Of course, all some fans really care about is that Garland and Mitchell connected on an all-oop pass that Mitchell threw down off the break. The connection is real and that was the exclamation point.
23. Brown led the Celtics (4-3) with a cool 30, and Jayson Tatum added 26. And man, is that guy good. He didn’t just tie the game at the end of regulation. He did it with a viscous slam. But credit to Mitchell for making Tatum’s life difficult in the OT.
24. There are still 75 games left. Long, long, long way to go. But if the Cavs are like this on most nights, you have to believe they are on their way to big things. Prior to the season, I didn’t think they could get out of the East, even after the Mitchell trade. But after seeing the first seven games, now I do.