Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 115-109 road win over the Nets on Tuesday …
1. It didn’t end the way coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cavs would have liked, but the rest of it sure was good.
2. Besides, all anyone ever cares about is this — win? Or lose? Which did the Cavs do?
3. Nor is it all that worrisome that the Cavs blew a 108-86 advantage to win by six. It’s only human nature to take your foot off the gas when everything is going right. It’s only natural to, well, stop defending as intensely.
4. Not saying it’s the best way to go, but hey, it happens.
5. It’s always about the bottom line, and the bottom line is the Cavs (46-28) have won seven of 10 as they continue to try to lock down the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
6. Prediction time: The Cavs will indeed finish fourth in the East. I predict they’ll win five of their final eight to finish 51-31.
7. I do think they’re fully capable of going 6-2, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’re officially locked into the fourth seed soon and give their starters a game off before the postseason.
8. And I gotta tell you, it’s been a long, long time since we were talking about the Cavs, without LeBron James, and home-court advantage in the first round. No matter how you slice it, the season has been a success.
9. This game was important because it also marked the return of Jarrett Allen, who missed the previous four with an eye injury. It never appeared serious, but I started to get the vine that fans were getting nervous. Allen didn’t seem to skip a beat, finishing with 12 points, 14 rebounds and a couple of blocks.
11. Mitchell wasn’t too shabby himself, scoring 31 points and finishing 5-of-9 on 3-pointers. Caris LeVert continued his nice stretch with 18 points and two steals. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley each added 17, with Garland passing for six assists.
15. But after getting shredded to the tune of 30 Nets points in the first quarter, the biggest difference was the Cavs’ defense in the second and third.
16. More Mitchell, via Winters: “We moved the ball well, but we got stops. We rebounded, we did our thing.”
17. For this version of the Cavs, that thing so often begins and ends with how well they guard people.
18. OK, now for the play of the night and perhaps the dunk of the season. It started with a Cavs fast break. It ended with Mitchell slamming it home aggressively in the face of Nets forward Yuta Watanabe (see below for video evidence).
19. Mitchell to Winters: “The biggest thing is just go up there without a conscience … understand that I have the momentum going forward, he’s backpedaling. It’s tough to be going backwards and jump. I’m just blessed that God gave me that ability and I was able to get one.”
20. As an aside, Garland passed Danny Ferry for ninth on the Cavs’ all-time 3-point list on Tuesday. Ferry made 543 and Garland hit his 544th early in the first quarter. Wesley Person is in eighth place.
20. So that will do it. The Cavs and Nets meet again Thursday, again in Brooklyn, almost like a real playoff series.
22. Brooklyn isn’t too bad since the trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but is still a piece away. For the record, it’s doubtful that piece is injured guard/forward Ben Simmons. hard to know what awaits one of the biggest NBA disappointments in recent memory. Sorry, but there’s really no way to sugarcoat it.
23. As for the Cavs, there’s zero drama, lots of winning and good vibes all around. That’s how you hope to close out the regular season.
That was … wow pic.twitter.com/W14nVyXq9g
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) March 22, 2023