CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the Cavaliers ahead of Monday’s matchup with the Lakers.
1. Not that we ever thought the Cavs would finish with a losing record, but now it’s impossibility. They’re 41-30 after Saturday’s win over the Pistons, with only 11 games to go.
2. And man, the Cavs could use a day of rest. That is what they’re getting Sunday — one day off. Then they get to face LeBron James for the Lakers’ lone visit of the season Monday night.
3. You could see some tired legs in Saturday’s scratch-and-claw win over the lowly Pistons. The Cavs have really struggled with that particular opponent. The Pistons are also a relatively young team that still only gets fired up for the big games. They very clearly consider the Cavs a big game. As they should. The Cavs have earned it.
4. Actually, I take back what I wrote above about never thinking the Cavs would finish with a losing record. Before the season, every last one of us thought they would. Most of us figured they would after 10-20 games.
5. So, yes, J.B. Bickerstaff for Coach of the Year, Evan Mobley for Rookie of the Year, and Darius Garland for the very unofficial One of NBA’s Most Improved Players of the Year.
6. Actually, those individual accolades are nice. Fans and players count them for a lot. But the bottom line is the Cavs have put together their pleasant surprise of the season as a team in truest sense.
7. For instance, Cedi Osman had been in the doghouse for a bit, for whatever reason. Who really cares why. All we know is Osman returned to the rotation and played a major role in the Cavs’ win over the Pistons. Kevin Love was big, too. As Bickerstaff has said, when someone is off, someone else steps in.
8. That’s been true for most of the season. And that’s a real credit to the coach for implementing a culture of belief and winning.
9. And now come the Lakers. Whoever thought they’d be such a mess? The Cavs were supposed to be having a season like the Lakers; the Lakers were supposed to be having one like the Cavs (at worst).
10. You can be sure the likes of Garland, Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, Isaac Okoro and even Lamar Stevens are especially fired up for this game. Young guys in this league love facing James and trying to ear his respect by beating him.
11. LeBron is still scoring tons of points, tied for second in the NBA at 29.8 points per game. But he is 37 now and no longer capable of carrying a team on his own. And right now, he has very little help on most nights. Anthony Davis is always hurt and Russell Westbrook has been wildly inconsistent and a poor fit in LA.
12. Read: All the makings are there for the Cavs to beat the Lakers. They actually should smoke ’em. LeBron is going to get his. They key will be for the Cavs to contain everyone else.
13. The Cavs are undoubtedly the better team. But they are also the considerably younger team. So again, you never know what will happen in hyped-up games against the Lakers (30-41).
14. One league source said he hopes Cavs fans give LeBron a warm welcome for being the main man on the 2016 title team, then root fervently against him during the game, simply because he plays for the opponent. Makes sense.
15. FYI: You can’t tell, but James is said to be battling some serious knee soreness. He said he forced himself to play against the Wizards, who overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Lakers on Saturday. You can be pretty sure LeBron won’t miss a game in Cleveland.
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