Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 98-92 home loss to the Celtics on Monday ..
1. Sometimes you just run out of gas and all the injuries and illnesses take their toll. The Cavs won’t make excuses, and that’s OK. I’ll do it for them.
2. Basically, even in losses this season, the Cavs can feel proud. They went down swinging — despite still being without Collin Sexton (knee), Kevin Love (health protocols) and Lauri Markkanen (ditto). On this night, they had to do it without starting center Jarrett Allen (non-COVID illness) as well.
3. And the Cavs almost won, anyway. The bottom line is they just didn’t have enough at the end. Given everything, that’s not necessarily a huge surprise.
4. Best of all, as usual, it wasn’t a lack of effort that the Cavs were lacking. They played well in the second half, after slogging their way to a 39-37 halftime lead. The Celtics just played better.
5. Sometimes, you can only have to tip your cap to the other guy, and that truly was the story of this night. In an 82-game season, you’ll have games like this.
6. Not surprisingly, Ricky Rubio kept the Cavs in it when all started to feel lost. He scored two points in the first half — and finished with 28. As Cavs analyst Austin Carr said, Rubio really is a pass-first point guard. But when the team needs buckets, he can get them.
7. With Allen missing, Rubio got the start next to Darius Garland (17 points). Isaac Okoro slid over to the small forward spot, and came out on fire, tying his season-high of nine points in the first quarter. He finished with 12.
8. That put Evan Mobley at center, and he gave his worst showing of an otherwise brilliant early season. Clearly, he missed having Allen out there with him. Mobley finished with one point and went a miserable 0-of-11 shooting. Adding insult to injury, he appeared to hurt his elbow in the third quarter.
9. But anyone who has followed the NBA for any amount of time knows that rookies can have nights like this. So … no big deal. This was to be expected at least once, and perhaps more.
10. But along with the likes of Rubio and Garland, the Cavs (9-6) received an excellent outing off the bench from Cedi Osman. All he did was score 26 points, including 6-of-12 shooting on 3-pointers. He also tied Mobley with a team-high five assists.
11. So again, even when the Cavs are bad, they’re not that bad. Unfortunately, Osman’s final miss late in the game clanged off the side of the backboard.
12. Back to Mobley. After the game, coach J.B. Bickerstaff could offer no answers, as Bickerstaff had yet to speak to the training staff. Last thing the Cavs can afford right now is another injury.
13. Bickerstaff isn’t getting near the credit he deserves nationally. Along with Washington’s Wes Unseld Jr., Bickerstaff has done as masterful a job in the early season as anyone. Cleveland has played hard and mostly smart in all 15 games. Not many teams can make that claim.
14. Bickerstaff again praised the Cavs’ effort after the loss. “All the things that have happened, and we’re still in a tight ball game with a shot at it,” he said.
15. Veteran center Al Horford came up huge for the Celtics (7-7), recording 17 points and nine rebounds. Think the Cavs missed Allen?
16. In fairness, Boston was without injured star wing Jaylen Brown, and big man Robert Williams III left early with knee soreness. Guard/forward Jayson Tatum scored 23 to lead the way.
17. On the bright side, Love very well could return this week, Bickerstaff said before the game. (Full post.)
18. That’s especially good news, considering the next game is on the road against Kevin Durant, James Harden and the Nets. The Cavs then return home to face Steph Curry and the red-hot Warriors (remember them?) the next night.
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