Dribbles: Missing three stars finally catches up with the Cavs

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 123-104 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.Craig Porter Jr

1. Turns out, the Cavs will eventually need Donovan Mitchell. And Darius Garland. And Evan Mobley. Or maybe at least Sam Merrill for more than 12 minutes. Then he was forced to exit with an injured wrist.

2. This was basically one of those mid-December throwaway games where the Cavs knew the odds were already stacked against them. The second night of back-to-back? Down three stars? Yeah, no chance.

3. At some point, you have to believe the Cavs (16-13) will be mostly whole again. And if not that, at least have Mitchell, who missed his second straight game with an illness. It’s been going around the NBA and the country in general. December, man. Gets us every time.

4. The players on the floor gave it their all, of course. But they just seemed a step slow defensively, and the magic that carried them to a win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday had vanished.

5. Give the Cavs credit for cutting a 14-point deficit at halftime to 80-76 at one point in the third quarter. Then the Pelicans (17-12) went on a 14-0 run and that was that. The game wasn’t really watchable for the final 12 minutes.

6. New Orleans was missing Zion Williamson (sick) and old friend Larry Nance Jr. (broken rib), along with a couple others. But they still had leading scorer Brandon Ingram and third-leading scorer CJ McCollum. That’s two guys averaging 20-plus points. Or two more than the Cavs had.

7. Dean Wade had a nice night with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and team-highs of nine rebounds and two blocks. Isaac Okoro added 16 and Jarrett Allen scored 14 with seven boards.

8. Max Strus added 13 points but was just 4-of-16 shooting. With so many key pieces missing, you can’t really afford to have an off night. That’s not to bury Strus, the shots just didn’t drop. It’s just to show the reality of the situation.

9. Anyway, rookie Craig Porter Jr. did a nice job of running the offense again. He scored just seven but passed for a game-high 11 assists.

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters on the loss: “I think we just ran out of steam. … You can’t knock the effort from what our guys have been doing.”

11. Bickerstaff added it was a “great week,” all things considered. “To go 3-1 on this homestand and battle the things we’ve had to battle, this has been a successful week for us,” he said. “Now we just have to continue to put it together and hold down the fort.”

12. I will not make it to 15 dribbles for perhaps the first time in NBA history. You’re a true fan if you’re still reading.

13. Three of the next four are on the road, starting Saturday at the Chicago Bulls. The lone home game in that stretch comes against the mighty Milwaukee Bucks. Get well soon, Donovan.

14. We have much more positive news about the Cavs, and instead of linking all of the stories, I figured I’d just put out the link to our Cavs page. So feel free to check out the latest here.

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