Dribbles: For Cavs, Preseason Game 2 Offers Chance to Fine-Tune ‘Small Things’

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 108-105 preseason home loss to the Magic on Thursday.Max Strus

1. Well, it’s definitely the preseason. And early in the preseason at that. Aside from Darius Garland, most of the Cavs starters were a little flat.

2. Garland was brilliant with 17 points in the first quarter. He finished with 19 on 7-of-12 shooting in just 17 minutes. It showed his 1-of-10 showing in the first preseason game was a fluke. But we probably knew that already.

3. Overall, you can tell the Cavs are still getting used to each other. Not a big surprise when coach J.B. Bickerstaff is instituting some new wrinkles on offense, given the addition of more outside shooting via the likes of Max Strus and Georges Niang, etc.

4. But other than Garland, the two best Cavs on this night may have been Dean Wade (14 points, 5-of-8 shooting) and again, rookie Emoni Bates (12 quick points in 12 minutes).

5. Wade has been playing with confidence in practice and the preseason, admitting as much after the game that he is feeling more comfortable. He actually was pretty good last season before being hampered with a shoulder injury. Maybe he can build on it.

6. While the Cavs’ main guys struggled to get things going, the players who stand a good chance to start for the Cleveland Charge brought some energy and made a game of it in the fourth quarter. Along with Bates, that group consisted of Craig Porter Jr., Zhaire Smith, Pete Nance and Isaiah Mobley.

7. You can see why Bates was so highly thought of coming out of high school. He just has a certain smoothness about him and plays with a great deal of courage.

8. I know the Cavs don’t care what I think (nor should they), but I’d just bring him up to the standard roster and forget about the whole two-way thing. Bates looks like an NBA player — period. 

9. Bates admittedly treated this like Game 7 of the playoffs — and by all accounts, that’s how he treats things most of the time. Preseason, training camp, and if he plays for the Charge, probably there, too. “It’s my opportunity to show what I can do,” he said afterward.

10. Donovan Mitchell struggled with just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting. But if you think that’s anything to be concerned about … yeah, you probably don’t really follow the NBA preseason.

11. Bickerstaff said right now the Cavs are still going through the process of learning some of the nuances and “small things,” particularly offensively.

12. I asked what that meant. “Last year, we played a ton of pick-and-roll. We were elite in the pick-and-roll and we don’t want to lose that,” Bickerstaff said. “But at this moment we’re trying to implement some things where we’re a little more dynamic and harder to guard. In the NBA, with the level of talent and skill, the difference is like this much. So every single day we have to continue to get that much better. And then you gotta be able to go out and do it against live competition.”

13. In other words, camp and the preseason are ways to get reps “so you can be as good as you want to be at the times you need to be at your best,” Bickerstaff added.

14. By the way, Caris LeVert didn’t play because of foot soreness. It appears that the Cavs were just being overly cautious, as they should be at this time of year. 

15. It’s 11:23 p.m. and I’m still at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. And for preseason Game No. 2. I forgot how much I love this job — but I also have to keep reminding myself I’ll likely be doing this until at least May. Or hey, maybe even June if the Cavs can go on a Heat-like playoff run, right?

16. Either way, my point is that it may be time to wrap it up for the time being. We have a long way to go.

17. Strus added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. He is definitely a ball of fire and opponents really pay close attention to him on the perimeter. That alone gives the Cavs a different dynamic than last season. Evan Mobley added 11 points in 22 minutes.

18. I think this Magic team can be a sleeper in the East. They’re young, deep, athletic and have a nice combination of size and speed. They were led by Franz Wagner, who scored 18. Older brother Moritz Wagner added 14 off the bench.

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  1. As always, LOVE your dribbles. This team DOES have some excitement built in for this season with the talent shown at times. How to play them all together is going to be a bit of a dilemma, but if they get it right & Allen comes back in full form, they could really be good.
    Coaching is going to have to be on the front end of it all.

    Agree 100% on Bates! That guy is exciting to watch & needs to get as much time as possible. The Elder Mobley is another that seems to be blossoming well too. The energy he brings appears to me could be better than having Tristan on the defense, but that will hopefully play itself out to the good IF he gets the chance to perform. Again the height issue plagued the Cavs on rebounding last playoff series & Tristan did work well sometimes last night, but let some blow-by without a challenge. Momentum did seem to have a small letdown when Tristan came in. Although it’s still early, it IS still exciting to watch.

    Coaching should tell you though, when you’re down by 3 points with a mere seconds left, you do NOT need to go in and try to penetrate for a 2 point shot !??? Young guys.
    Yeah, I know, it’s preseason. Still, it’s a home game, & who knows, they could’ve used the overtime minutes too.

    Keep the dribbles comin’

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