Dribbles: For Cavs, Everything Comes Together In Road Rout Of Pelicans

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 116-95 road walloping of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. …Donovan Mitchell and Damian Jones, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. Donovan Mitchell returns and the Cavs put together one of their most complete games of the season against a very good team. Think those two things are related?

2. Hot take: I sure do.

3. But raise your hand if you expected the Cavs to shoot just three free throws in the game and pummel the Pelicans in their own building. I sure didn’t.

4. It’s true that the Cavs attempted just three foul shots — for the entire game! The first didn’t come until about the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Last time the Cavs took so few free throws was in November 1994, when they attempted just two against the Golden State Warriors. They won that game, too.

5. Maybe the Cavs are on to something here.

6. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff probably could’ve complained about the free-throw discrepancy had this not been such a blowout. But hey, what’s not to like when you win like this?

7. Bickerstaff to reporters: “I think we did an unbelievable job of sharing the basketball. Thirty-eight assists on 47 (made) field goals, that’s awesome. That means everybody’s getting involved, everybody’s sharing it.”

8. Bickerstaff is correct. This was the Cavs (42-24) at their best.

9. Mitchell was indeed back on the court after missing seven games with a knee issue. He was just OK stat-wise, scoring 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. But his mere presence offered a major boost.

10. Meanwhile, Darius Garland had a banner night, recording 27 points and a game-high 11 assists. When Garland is in double-digits in assists, the Cavs usually win.

11. Garland went 10-of-16 shooting, 6-of-10 on 3-pointers and committed just one turnover to boot. If he’s had a better all-around game this season, I sure don’t remember it. Along with his individual output, he was among the biggest reasons the ball kept moving. 

12. Jarrett Allen was again incredibly steady with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Georges Niang added 16 points and six boards. Niang started in place of Evan Mobley (ankle) and Dean Wade (personal reasons), the man who usually fills in for Mobley.

13. And get this — Sam Merrill rediscovered his form, scoring 15 points after shooting 5-of-10 on threes, and passing for nine assists in reserve. Caris LeVert scored just two off the bench but also had nine assists. LeVert has always been a solid facilitator, but never quite like this year.

14. Not to be forgotten was the performance of Isaac Okoro, who finished with seven points and seven rebounds and offered his usual dose of determined defense. Now if the Cavs could just bottle this one up and take it with them to the playoffs. Everyone truly played their part. The Cavs finished 20-of-45 on threes.

15. Oh, yeah. Reserve center Damian Jones is from Louisiana and provided an incredibly nice spark against his home-state squad. Jones went for 14 points and six rebounds, shooting 7-of-8 from the field. 

16. Mitchell to reporters on the win: “I think we did it in all facets, scoring, defense. … Tonight what you saw was, I think, one of (Garland’s) best games that I’ve seen.”

17. And Cavs fans everywhere gave a hearty amen.

18. Zion Williamson led the Pelicans (39-26) with 33 points and nine boards, and Brandon Ingram added 20 points. But afterward, even the Pelicans TV broadcast crew was talking about and offering high praise to the Cavs.

19. Yes, old friend David Griffin is still the Pelicans’ head of basketball operations. Former Cavs guard Trajan Langdon remains their GM. They have done a nice job in New Orleans. But this night belonged to the Cavs and the Cavs themselves made certain that was the case.

20. Next up: The feisty Rockets in Houston. That doesn’t happen until Saturday, so the Cavs get a couple of much-needed days without a game. They undoubtedly earned it.

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