Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 120-113 thriller of a road win over the Pacers on Friday night.
1. Caris LeVert breaking down his former teammates when it mattered most. Rajon Rondo burying 3-pointers, and some important free throws. The Cavs overcoming a 21-point deficit with determined defense.
2. All of those things were mentioned first because it’s hard to say which is most amazing. Let’s call it a tie.
3. This has just been the story of this season. Whenever we count out the Cavs … well, they show us a thing or two. Or as was the case on this night, like, five.
4. By the way, this was the Cavs’ biggest comeback win of the season. The second-biggest? Sunday, also against the Pacers, when the Cavs overcame a 20-point deficit.
5. Both times, the Cavs had to do it minus Darius Garland, who was forced to sit out again with a creaky back. But more on that in a minute.
6. When LeVert started working over the Pacers in the fourth quarter, it was easy to wonder why the Pacers traded him to the Cavs, and for basically nothing.
7. LeVert tallied 22 points, tied with Jarrett Allen‘s 22 to pace the Cavs. But once again, this was a team effort in the truest sense — as seven Cavs scored in double figures.
8. And yes, one of those was indeed Rondo. All he did was bury two fourth-quarter threes, on his way to finishing with a season-high 17 points. Rondo went 6-of-7 shooting overall, grabbed seven rebounds and passed for six assists.
9. Back to LeVert. On Sunday, he arrived in Cleveland as a member of the Pacers. He was informed he’d been traded before the game. A few nights later, he was back in Indiana … with the Cavs.
10. LeVert admitted to Bally Sports Ohio’s Serena Winters that it all felt sort of strange. “It was weird at first, for the first couple quarters,” he said. “Then I was like, “I just gotta hoop.’ I just tried to be myself.”
11. Kevin Love and Cedi Osman each added 14 points, and Dean Wade scored 13 in one of his better showings. Love had 10 in the first quarter, and who knows how this would’ve ended up if it weren’t for that.
12. Oddly enough, seven Cavs scored in double figures and one of them wasn’t Evan Mobley (eight points). But he made a major impact when the Cavs suffocated the Pacers in the second half, swatting away three shots and making countless other defensive players.
13. Allen also pulled down 14 rebounds and was another major reason the Cavs’ length forced the Pacers into taking some tough shots. This after Indiana shot 71 percent and scored 47 points in the first quarter.
14. More LeVert to Winters: “This is a special group. Even when we were down, it didn’t feel like we were gonna lose.”
15. Isaac Okoro added 10 points, and don’t look now, but the Cavs (35-21) have won four straight yet again. Overall, they’ve won 13 of 16.
16. Mostly, it helps to have a guy like LeVert. In the words of Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, “he can impose his will on the game.”
17. The LeVert trade was actually the first of the week for the Pacers (19-38). They also sent big man Domantas Sabonis to the Kings in a deal that returned guards Tyrese Haliburton (23 points) and Buddy Hield (16). Those two almost buried the Cavs, and Haliburton is gonna be really good for a long, long time.
18. But this is the Cavs’ time, and they showed it again Friday night.
19. Finally, old friend Tristan Thompson, who also came over from the Kings, made his Pacers debut. He proved to be his old pesky self, battling for every rebound and just being a general nuisance to the Cavs. He, Love and Garland exchanged some laughs on the court after the game, and it’s good to see Thompson getting a new opportunity.
20. Next up: The Cavs visit the new-look 76ers on Saturday. James Harden, however, won’t play. But Joel Embiid will, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the Allen-Mobley duo down low.
21. As for Garland, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on. He returned after a four-game absence to score 27 points on Wednesday. For now, sources say Garland’s back is still bugging him, but that it’s nothing serious. The Cavs are just being cautious.