Dribbles: Finally whole, Cavs rise at right time to fend off pesky Pistons

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 128-121 home win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.Darius Garland shoots a layup over Danilo Gallinari

1. Well, not everything will be a work of art. But this was a fun game overall. Lots of scoring, lots of intensity, and the Cavs doing just enough to win it at the end.

2. Yes, this marked the return of Darius Garland and the Cavs’ starting five as it’s supposed to be. It looked just fine, and Garland had a nice night with 19 points in 20 minutes. 

3. I know everyone will say the Cavs should blow out the Pistons, but if that’s the case, then I disagree with virtually everyone. First of all, it’s tough to get “up” for these types of games. The Cavs have been on a major roll and the Pistons aren’t as pathetic as their record suggests. This was sort of like Detroit’s championship. Combine all those things and you get a close game. 

4. Not a big deal as long as you walk away with the win.

5. Here’s something that wasn’t a surprise — Donovan Mitchell was utterly fantastic with 45 points. That ties his season-high. Few others could get it going offensively, at least consistently, so Mitchell just got bucket after bucket when the Cavs needed them most. He scored 20 of those points in the fourth quarter.

6. The Pistons (6-41) were coming off a rare victory, so it took everything I had not to write this headline: “Cavs snap Pistons’ second-longest win streak of season.”

7. Anyway, I don’t think the Cavs (29-16) took the Pistons lightly. I just think, again, you’re not going to look like world-beaters every night. The bottom line is Cleveland has won 11 of 12 and 16 of 20. If you want to complain about that … well, you’re just reaching.

8. Jarrett Allen was magnificent, adding to his franchise-record streak of double-doubles with 16. He scored 14 on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. Those aren’t huge numbers, but some of them came during the game’s most meaningful moments.

9. All that and Allen was a game-time decision because he felt under the weather. “I think he ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all day today,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

11. Isaac Okoro returned to his reserve role and was as good as ever. I’ll be honest, I was always iffy on Okoro before this season. But now his contributions are becoming evident — scoring, stealing, position defense, and just making winning plays. He scored 14 and is averaging 15.5 over the last two. This from a man who clearly doesn’t care if shoots all that much.

12. Yes, Sam Merrill still played even with Garland’s return, and Merill played well, putting up 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, all in the first half. One of those baskets was a reverse layup that came off the pinpoint pass of the season from Mitchell.

13. Caris LeVert struggled shooting (3-of-8) and was sloppy with the ball at times, but like the others, played well when it counted. He also did an underrated job defensively on a night when the Pistons just couldn’t miss.

14. I’m not joking about that, either. Detroit shot a sizzling 15-of-19 from the field in the second quarter. Many were well-defended. “They made shots, give them credit,” Bickerstaff said.

15. Evan Mobley played his second game since mid-December knee surgery and finished with eight points, three rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. Georges Niang only scored four off the bench but passed for five assists — second on the team to Mitchell’s eight.

16. Bickerstaff on having the starting five together again: “I thought it was good. It’s going to take some time just because the rotation will be kind of jumbled. … We’re going to be good once we get an opportunity to let it all settle in.”

17. For the Pistons, Danilo Gallinari had a throwback performance with 20 points and 4-of-4 shooting on 3-pointers. We may never see that again. Former No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham was excellent with 19 points and seven assists.

18. Speaking of former draft picks, long-ago Cavs big man Dwight Davis was in the crowd, and man, I truly enjoy it when the franchise pays homage to its history. Davis was selected by the Cavs with the No. 3 pick in 1972. He eventually was traded to the Warriors for Butch Beard and a pick that became John Lambert.

19. The Cavs immediately hopped on a plane after the win, headed to Memphis to face the injury-plagued Grizzlies. But Memphis has looked better lately, and it’s never easy playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back.

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