Dribbles: Donovan Mitchell erupts, cruising Cavs claw past Wizards for seventh straight win

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 114-106 road win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. …Donovan Mitchell

1. The sign of a good team? Well, how about winning when you play something less than your best? That was the Cavs on Wednesday.

2. Washington just refused to go away. The Wizards may be an atrocious 9-41, but as anyone around the NBA will tell you, they are still NBA players. There’s talent there and even some real effort — but almost zero cohesion. Nonetheless, the Wizards found ways to stay in it.

3. Part of that had to do with the fact the Cavs were a little flat. But flat, energetic, ugly or pretty, Cleveland (33-16) just keeps right on winning. That’s all anyone will remember and all that truly matters.

4. Once again, Donovan Mitchell was the man who made sure this wasn’t the upset of the season. He erupted for 40 points, also pulling down eight rebounds and passing for a team-high five assists. I’ve written it before and I’m sticking with it — but I believe the last month or so has been the best stretch of Mitchell’s NBA career.

5. Along with being a remarkable scorer, Mitchell has become a strong facilitator, making sure that his teammates get good looks. He’s dropping 40 without forcing a thing. One thing that’s easy to see is the rest of the Cavs love having him around.

6. Meanwhile, Evan Mobley was quietly fantastic, delivering one of his best performances of the season. It definitely was his best since returning from knee surgery at the start of last week. He went for 22 points on a sizzling 9-of-10 shooting, with eight boards, in just 25 minutes. 

7. Oh yeah, Mobley took two 3-pointers and made both. Everything he does on the court is so unassuming. There’s nothing flashy about it. But he can help electrify the team and on this night, it was what the Cavs needed.

8. Anyway, most of the night was indeed sloppy. It looked as if the Cavs were playing to the level of their competition. All I can say is you will have that during an 82-game season.

9. The bottom line is the Cavs have won an amazing 15 of 16 and seven straight. If they can win Thursday night at Brooklyn, they’ll have matched their season high.

10. Remember when everyone was worried about what the returns of Mobley and Darius Garland (13 points) might do to team chemistry? Yeah, the Cavs haven’t skipped a beat. Not surprisingly, both players have fit right in with the Cavs’ chemistry and cohesiveness.

11. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that the Wizards deserved credit for keeping it close. “They played their tails off,” he told reporters. “But it was great to see our guys figure out a way and come up with (a win).”

12. That about sums it up, and as I said during my appearance on 92.3 The Fan before the game, Bickerstaff has done a fantastic job with the rotation. The players are totally buying into what he’s selling, and that’s like 75 percent of the battle for an NBA coach.

13. Jarrett Allen added 12 points and nine rebounds, though no one else reached double figures in scoring. It truly was a struggle. Still, again, the Cavs didn’t let that hold them back. For instance, Max Strus went just 1-of-5 shooting but contributed seven boards.

14. The Wizards received 28 points from Kyle Kuzma and 23 from Corey Kispert. They are expected to be big-time sellers ahead of the trade deadline on Thursday. My best guess: Kuzma doesn’t get traded, though Kispert might. He’d be a great (and cheaper) addition to a contender.

15. I know I for one would sure blow it up if I were first-year Wizards head of basketball operations Michael Winger, a Cleveland native and former Cavs front-office man. That guy has his work cut out for him.

16. Meanwhile, I expect Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman to stand pat, as I wrote here. Don’t mess with success. That said, this is Altman we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t be stunned if he pulled off a smaller deal. Word is, he’s certainly exploring it.

17. Final word from Mobley: “I feel like everyone is finding how they want to play and where they fit in, and it’s all coming together as a team.”

18. Yeah, man. Sure looks that way for these Cavs.

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