Dribbles: Jarrett Allen, Cavs Display Needed Grit, Grind Out OT Win Over Mighty Wolves

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ inspiring 113-104 overtime home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. …Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. Jarrett Allen is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. But man oh man, he played a man’s game on Friday night.

2. Allen spent most of the evening wrestling for position with Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, who stands 7-foot-1 but plays more like somebody who’s 7-foot-8. He’s all arms and legs and spunk, and gave Allen at least one quality elbow to the ribs and another nasty swipe across the head.

3. But Allen didn’t back down. It seemed as if the more physical Gobert became, the better Allen played. 

4. Gobert fouled out with 28 seconds left in regulation. Allen finished with a career-high 33 points, as well as a remarkable 18 rebounds.

5. Game. set. Cavs.

6. The Cavs (41-22) haven’t looked great lately. I’ve said and written it time and again. They seemingly have lacked a fighting and winning spirit. Well, forget all that. They gritted this one out and simply refused to lose. This may have been their best game of the season without the injured Donovan Mitchell. It certainly was their best without Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Max Strus.

7. You also had to like that the Cavs showed they can stand tall in a backyard brawl. That’s what this resembled. Minnesota (44-20) entered the night with the best record in the Western Conference and the league’s top-ranked defense. Cleveland has the third-best defense. It showed on Friday, as every offensive possession for both teams was a major chore.

8. While Allen was taking care of business underneath, Darius Garland was finding ways to create from the perimeter. It seems as if Garland takes a lot of flak from fans these days, but he did what he needed to help the Cavs any way he could — tying Minnesota’s Naz Reid with a game-high 34 points. Garland went 13-of-26 from the field and passed for eight assists.

9. Yes, he went just 2-of-10 on 3-pointers and committed six turnovers. But he found his footing in OT, and let there be no doubt, he’s a massive reason the Cavs got the win.

10. Was the game super well-played? No, not really. Was it incredibly intense? You’d better believe it.

11. Georges Niang got another start and recorded 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. He went 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-7 on threes. Eleven of Niang’s points came in the first half in one of his best games in Cleveland. Caris LeVert added 15 points and tied Garland with a game-high eight assists.

12. LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Niang and Allen were especially determined on defense. Okoro contained T-Wolves star Anthony Edwards, who finished 7-of-17 shooting and had to labor for every bucket. 

13. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters on Okoro: “He’s the best perimeter defender in the league. Hands down.” 

14. It’s true that the Timberwolves were without injured All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), but they still managed to win at Indiana on Thursday night. With or without Towns, this team is no joke. Wow. They really test you physically. The fact the Cavs were able to withstand it perhaps shows that they are done being pushed around.

15. By the way, Minnesota coach Chris Finch held his pregame press conference and seemed fine — but then was ruled out with an illness about five minutes before tipoff. Finch and Bickerstaff are undoubtedly in the running for NBA Coach of the Year.

16. Allen shot 21 free throws and deserved every last one. He truly sacrificed his body for the good of the team.

17. Meanwhile, Garland admitted that he’s still ramping it up after missing time with a broken jaw — meaning he couldn’t eat. So perhaps he’s still regaining his strength. He said he hopes to be 100 percent for the playoffs.

18. Bottom line: The Cavs can be proud of how they won this game. They faced a rugged and talented opponent and came out on top, largely by beating the Timberwolves at their own game. Something to build on for sure.

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