Dribbles: It sure wasn’t pretty, but Cavs stay hot by grinding down Grizzlies

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ somewhat unsightly 108-101 road win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.Darius Garland

1. Forget that this resembled a 1995 WWE wrestling match in the mud. The Cavs were playing their second game in two nights … on the road … without Evan Mobley … after a hard-fought win over the Pistons

2. They also had to do it without Jarrett Allen for about the entire second half. Mobley was out to rest his knee, though it remains fine. The Cavs are just being cautious. Allen left early in the second half with what appeared to be ankle pain. He too seems OK.

3. Even so, the Cavs weren’t nearly as short-handed as the Grizzlies. Star point guard Ja Morant is out for the season. Same with starting center Steven Adams, who tore his ACL in October and reportedly was traded to the Rockets just before this game.

4. So the Cavs ended up playing against several guys who are probably best suited for the G League. And man, was it ugly. But it was still fun. Anyone who watched and enjoyed highlights of the NBA in the 1990s probably got a kick out of this one. It was a whole lot of grinding, grit, effort, and sweat.

5. Notice how I didn’t say anything about “beauty” there? That’s not by accident.

6. But every once in a while, you gotta win games like these — games where you may not have it and are forced to find a way, and any way. That was the Cavs (30-16), who have now won 12 of 13 and 17 of 21. That, folks, is a pretty remarkable stretch.

7. Offensively, the Cavs were pretty flat for most of the night. They had no choice but to try to win this in the trenches, by turning up the defense, rebounding and just using general muscle.

8. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters in Memphis: “I thought our guys just did a great job of showing resolve. Our defense is what makes us, and we held them to 22 points (in the third quarter) and 21 points (in the fourth). Even when things aren’t as pretty as we’d like, we know we can go there.”

9. And guess what? That’s been the story of this team for, what, the past two months? It’s been a whole lot of just finding ways to win, baby.

10. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 25 points and seven assists. Darius Garland also recorded seven assists in 24 minutes, in his second game back from a broken jaw (with nine points). Caris LeVert gave a fine showing off the bench with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

11. Again, though, this was hardly about the offense. Frankly, I’m not truly doing the game justice simply by calling it “ugly.” There has to be a better word. Clunky, maybe? Or how about “all thumbs”? That was a popular saying in the 1980s, and if you weren’t around then, let me tell ya, you don’t know what you’re missing.

12. Anyway, Allen’s consecutive double-double streak has now come to an end at 16. That’s a franchise record, and I doubt anyone will come close to it for a long time (other than maybe Allen again). He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. He actually was credited with 10 rebounds at halftime, until game officials realized they had given him one too many.

13. My buddy DVR’d the game, rewound it, and went back and counted. He texted to say nine was indeed accurate for Allen. Yes, that’s my source. Some doofus in Akron.

14. Max Strus scored 11 points and Sam Merrill knocked down three 3-pointers for nine. Dean Wade, Georges Niang, Isaac Okoro and even Damian Jones all made underrated contributions in their own way.

15. I keep waiting for the Cavs to sign someone to a 10-day deal or call up Emoni Bates from the Cleveland Charge. If Allen is out for any amount of time, you can be sure they will do something.

16. Jaren Jackson Jr. led the Grizzlies (18-30) with 25 points. But man, are they ever decimated. This is a franchise that finished with the second-best record in the West last season.

17. Well, that’s it for now. Final thought: The Cavs have been great — and this game is just another example that they’re determined to put together a regular season full of fun, regardless of who’s on the floor.

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  1. Sorry, but I just don’t see Garland’s incorporation into the lineup at this standpoint working anything other than some distracting chaos on the offensive side while still guarding on the defense from behind–“swish” there he goes, somebody stop my guy, gee, I didn’t get back out to the 3pt line in time.
    At least it was on limited minutes so his turnover rate was only 3. Ugly was correct, & it was contagious. Allen when he was in, was mostly great & Mostly Mitchell too, some others, D Wade, & Merrill contributed well too when they could. Yes Mitchell had 4 TO’s but also had +16 & 25pt.
    Maybe an anomaly I hope, but the contrast of the two big wins over high level competitions of Milwaukee & Clippers, against the weak Pistons & doubly weakened Grizzlies IS,,, wait for it. Darius. ??? It appears that some of the UNSURETY of the offense players IS,, “this is a very different attempt at what we’re used to”,- having incorporated Darius, even on limited minutes.
    I do hope they can figure this out, soon.
    They aren’t what they have been recently, & if they lose Allen for extended time… well,, It could continue the ugliness. Hope NOT.

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