Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 105-92 home win over the Magic on Saturday …
1. It’s hard to get fired up for a lousy opponent, even when you yourself have lost five straight. That was the dilemma facing the Cavs entering the game — and they indeed played like a team that knew it had little chance to lose.
2. That’s not a criticism. The Cavs did what they were supposed to, and at times looked absolutely fantastic. Basically, it was far from a riveting or pretty game, but the Cavs stuck to their principles.
3. They were gritty, displayed lots of teamwork and on this night, were especially good at defending the rim.
4. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Evan Mobley returned from a sprained elbow. He had what could be a pedestrian night numbers-wise (13 points, nine rebounds), but there is no doubting that the Cavs are a considerably better team with him on the floor.
5. Most impressively, Mobley swatted away four Magic shots — at least two of which were seemingly sent into next week. “He loves the game and he wants to be out there,” point guard Darius Garland told reporters.
6. Along with that, it really was a team effort in the truest sense. Garland scored 26 points and passed for 11 assists in a fantastic all-around night. Lauri Markkanen added what seemed like a quiet 20 points, but actually counted for a lot. Jarrett Allen record 19 points and 11 boards, and went 8-of-9 shooting.
7. It was the type of opponent — young, struggling — the Cavs (10-10) desperately needed in order to snap a five-game skid. And winning the games you’re expected to win is enough to keep you in the playoff conversation all year.
8. Garland to Bally Sports Ohio sideline reporter Andre Knott: “We’re a tough group. We’re always fighting, we’re always in the game.”
9. And now coach J.B. Bickerstaff has everyone back.
10. Speaking of Garland and Bickerstaff, here’s what the coach said about his point guard:
“He hasn’t settled for anything. … (He has made a) commitment to being great.”
11. On the downside, Ricky Rubio is continuing on in his shooting struggles, and I’m still not sure what the Cavs are getting from Isaac Okoro. Someone, anyone will need to step up and be consistent in place of Collin Sexton.
12. Granted, that’s admittedly nitpicking in a season that is going better than expected, a season that has already been plenty promising and fun.
13. The Magic (4-17) were led by Wendell Carter Jr., who scored 19 before being tossed late for throwing his protective eyewear. Carter was protesting a perceived no-call after a massive dunk. The Magic aren’t completely healthy, but even when they are, they’re still at least a few years away. The Cavs were far from great and still won with relative ease.
14. Bottom line: As good as Garland was for the Cavs, it’s vital that they have their three 7-footers (or near 7-footers) in uniform and on the floor. All that length makes it incredibly difficult for opponent’s to score. And that just happens to be the name of the game.
15. Things will suddenly be difficult again, as the Cavs visit the Mavericks on Monday, the Heat on Wednesday and the Wizards on Friday. All three of those teams are highly likely going to the playoffs. It will be nice to see how the Cavs, now healthy again, will match up in enemy territory.