CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 120-112 home loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday.
2. Yet again, the effort was there. The bodies were not. And man, you don’t need me to tell you all of this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
3. Granted, most people sort of figured the Cavs would fade after the All-Star break, just because their main players are so young. But throw in injuries to Allen and Mobley … and it’s just not fair.
4. But it is reality. And reality is, the Cavs (42-34) may want to start warming up to the idea of the play-in tournament. They don’t have to accept it, but with six games to go, they are now two games behind the sixth-place Raptors. Finish in seventh, and play-in it is.
5. OK, let’s pause for a moment. As dire and perhaps depressing as this may sound to the Cavs and their fans, it’s important to remember this season has still been a smashing success. Who can’t be excited about the Cavs’ future?
6. Translation: This may not end like the Cavs hope, but it’s just the start of what should be really cool things to come.
7. As for the game, well, the Cavs gave it a run. Then they ran out of gas. Caris LeVert had his best game since coming to Cleveland, tallying 32 points. Darius Garland compiled yet another double with 25 points and 10 assists. Credit to those guys to putting their heads down and doing all they could.
8. Lamar Stevens (16 points) was another clear example of that. In fact, all of the Cavs were. But the Mavericks are no joke. No one in the NBA can slow Luka Doncic (35 points, 13 assists, nine rebounds). This brand of Cavs was no different.
9. It didn’t help that Dorian Finney-Smith (28 points) seemed to bury a 3-pointer every time the Cavs started to feel good about themselves. That guy has always been vastly underrated, and unfortunately for the Cavs, that was seen firsthand.
10. Lauri Markkanen added 13 points for the Cavs, but was just 1-of-6 on threes on a night when the Cavs could’ve used a couple more. Moses Brown did a nice job with 12 points and nine boards, making all five of his attempts.
11. By the way Garland now has 11 point-assist double-doubles in March. That sets a Cavs record in any month, previously held by Mark Price. Now all the Cavs need is like two other guys to come out of nowhere. Otherwise … yeah, this will just continue.
12. Cavs on the Break podcast co-host John Sabol, also of WJW-TV Ch. 8, texted me after the game. He wanted to know if the Cavs get to keep their lottery pick should they flame out. Remember, they traded their first-rounder to the Pacers in the LeVert deal.
13. Anyway, the answer is yes. If the pick lands in the lottery, the Cavs will keep it. But as I told John, this is a down year for the draft, and the last thing the Cavs want is to be playing the lottery again. Nor do they really need another young guy.
14. So let’s put all that to rest for the time being. The Cavs’ sights are set solely on the playoffs, even if it takes the play-in tourney to get there. They don’t care about the 2022 NBA Draft. They only will when that time comes, and the goal is not to care then, either.
15. Of course, this isn’t about to get any easier. The Cavs visit the Hawks on Wednesday, then the Knicks on Saturday. They likely won’t have Allen for either of those, and they already announced that Mobley is out for both.
16. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff with the final word: “We’re obviously missing a lot, but we have to find ways to make up for that. And the only way is everybody’s gotta be a little more aggressive.”