Dribbles: For Starters, Cavs Show Some Promise

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers following their 132-121 road loss to the Grizzlies on opening night …

1. OK, the defense stunk. It needs lots of work. You have two forwards — Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love — who probably couldn’t even guard the Gatorade cooler at the end of the bench.Darius Garland

2. The entire backcourt was bad in that area, too. There really is no other way to explain giving up 132 points in regulation.

3. Granted, the NBA has set up the rules to make defense mostly a rumor. The league wants lots of open 3-pointers, lots of open dunks and lots of uninhibited driving and dishing to set up both. It needs highlights to sell the product. That’s both good and bad.

4. That said, the Wizards surrendered just 83 points on the road in a win over the Raptors. So it can be done. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has to figure out how to overcome the obvious shortcomings in that area.

5. So, that’s the bad news. Let’s get it out of the way. Everything else looked sort of promising.

6. You can’t help but like what you saw from rookie Evan Mobley. It was his first game,. but already, he looked like a complete pro. He looked comfortable. He made an impact with 17 points and nine rebounds, and was second on the team with six assists.

7. It’s OK to be cautious, but it’s also OK to think the Cavs might have found their next bonafide All-Star.

8. Darius Garland started slow and tweaked his ankle. Then he found his rhythm, showing the upside everyone has been talking about. Garland went for 13 points and 12 assists. He missed a couple of open looks, and that happens. Had he not, everyone would be raving about a 20-and-12 night. He is gonna be a real keeper.

9. Collin Sexton (17 points) looked about the same as always. He was efficient in scoring, but lacking in other areas (one assist, one rebound and a plus-minus of -14). None of that is reason for major concern. But probably only because it’s early. Scoring is important and Sexton knows what he does well. But the Cavs want to see him become a more well-rounded player this season.

10. Of course, we haven’t even mentioned Jarrett Allen. How does 25 points on 11-of-11 shooting sound? Pretty doggone good, right? Allen did it all without needing to dominate the ball. His biggest thing will be consistency. He doesn’t need to lead the team in scoring every night. He just needs to make his presence felt. So far, so great.

11. Meanwhile, Cedi Osman came to play with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Osman has been wildly inconsistent his entire career. Some of that is OK, because that’s usually what you expect from your eighth or ninth man. This is the year, though, he needs to be a regular contributor and not just sort of running around out there.

12. Markannen finished with 10 points and Isaac Okoro had eight in 21 fairly quiet minutes. The Cavs are still very unproven at small forward. That’s a problem in today’s NBA.

13. On the bright side, they definitely have a backup point guard. Ricky Rubio finished with 12 points and an impressive 10 assists in just 25 minutes. He will get things moving off the bench. It won’t be long before contenders come calling.

14. Did Love even play? That’s what I found myself asking after the game. Turns out he did, but was hardly a factor (four points, three rebounds). I have no idea what purpose he is going to serve with this group. I guess all the Cavs can do is showcase him a little and hope that someone else eventually wants him.

15. The Cavs got killed on the boards, with the Grizzlies’ big men absolutely dominating in that area. The final margin was Grizzlies 53, Cavs 36. Rebounding is a part of defense, and Allen has to get better in that department (cleaning the glass).

16. Bickerstaff on the loss: “The game got away from us down the stretch. But we’ve got to take steps there. You can’t allow teams to get to your paint. They scored 70 points in (the) paint. And then (we) give up 14 3s as well.”

17. Overall, this was about as good of an opener on the road that the Cavs could expect. Let’s not forget that the Grizzlies made the playoffs last year and have a real star in point guard Ja Morant (37 points, six assists). It was just one game, but it was an admirable showing by Cleveland. That’s better than the alternative.

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