Dribbles: It Took Extra Effort, And Time, But Cavs Edge Nuggets For 40th Win

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 119-116 overtime home win over the Nuggets on Friday.

1. Whew, everyone in Cleveland is saying after that one. Somehow, someway the Cavs got it done. It helped that they got a whole lot of Lauri Markkanen. It didn’t hurt that they also got a healthy dose of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and oh my, Caris LeVert.

Lauri Markkanen
NBAE via Getty images

2. So, where to start? How about here — the Cavs trailed by double-digits earlier in the game, then raced back to send into OT. That alone was a basketball miracle enough.

3. Then they trailed by five in overtime. It appeared to be over. At least, a lot of people seemed to think it was. Just not the Cavs. After trailing 114-109 in OT, the Cavs closed the game on a 10-2 run.

4. And hey, make it win No. 40 on the season. When you consider what everyone expected, that’s quite a benchmark.

5. But wait, there’s more. Thanks to LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and the Lakers beating the Raptors, the Cavs (40-30) are back in sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They also own the tiebreaker over the Raptors. Sixth place, of course, means avoiding the dreaded in play-in tournament.

6. As an aside, the Cavs went all season without playing an overtime game. This marked their second in less than a week. They’re 2-0 in OT.

7. Markkanen erupted for 31 points and 10 rebounds, recording one of the Cavs’ three double-doubles. Oh yeah, he also hit the night’s biggest 3-pointer.

8. It took place after Garland missed a layup, leaped among the trees to grab his own rebound, and kick out to Markkanen at the top of the key. Bingo. Cavs up three with 28.3 seconds to go.

9. After Nuggets center and reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic hit a basket to cut the deficit to one. But Mobley hit a layup off a quick pass from LeVert. Mobley was fouled, but missed the free throw, giving the Nuggets an opening with 11.5 seconds left. But a wild three at the buzzer went awry, leading to a near eruption of cheers inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff credited … well, everyone. He was correct in saying you don’t win games like that without a total team effort.

11. Markkanen to Bally Sports Ohio: “The whole team was ready. It’s not a one-man show. The whole team gave it their all.”

12. Mobley finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Garland went for 25 points and 14 assists. LeVert only scored 10, but man, he made some huge plays, including a few critical passes for important baskets.

13. Kevin Love added 12 points in reserve, also grabbing nine rebounds. Lamar Stevens and Isaac Okoro made countless hustle plays. 

13. Mobley has been fantastic since Jarrett Allen (finger) went down, and this game was another example. Both he and Markkanen needed a night like this to fend off the remarkable play of Jokic (32 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists).

14. Garland on Mobley: “He’s the Rookie of the Year in this league. I think it’s easy if you watch Cavaliers basketball, in my opinion. He’s our guy right here. He’s a 7-foot unicorn. He can do everything.”

15. As an aside, the Cavs swept the season series from the Nuggets (42-29). The win at Denver way back on Oct. 25 really was the start of good things. Maybe this one will punctuate the end of the season. It was a gutsy, scrappy win that exemplified what the Cavs have been doing most of the season.

16. But this is the NBA and there is no rest. The Cavs are again home Saturday, when they face the lowly Pistons. That said, they’ve lost twice to Detroit and need to stay focused. This can be the type of games that young teams struggle and lose. Of course, these are the 2021-22 Cavs. They’re not just any old young team.

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