Dribbles: This Time, Rally Falls Flat For Shorthanded Cavs

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 112-101 road loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. …Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. They battled. That’s about the best thing you can say of the Cavs on an otherwise lost evening.

2. Second game of a back-to-back. On the road. Missing three starters. Is it any wonder the Cavs fell behind by 21 points?

3. The fact they fought back to take a lead and keep it close late shows they at least had spirit. Just not enough capable bodies. And the capable bodies they did have looked exhausted.

4. The three missing starters? Donovan Mitchell (knee), Max Strus (also knee) and Evan Mobley (ankle). Put together that trio’s healthy parts and the Cavs would have a pretty good basketball Frankenstein.

5. But that’s not how this works and the Cavs (40-22) are suddenly a shell of the team that won 17 of 18 to kick off 2024.

6. Mitchell will miss at least one more game. Mobley is expected to be out at least a week. Nothing official has been announced on Strus.

7. Oh, and the West-contending Minnesota Timberwolves come to town on Friday night. Feeling any better yet?

8. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters in Atlanta that Mobley’s injured ankle was “tender” on Wednesday. “We’ll see how it goes,” Bickerstaff said. 

9. It’s also sort of easy to feel that way about Cleveland’s upcoming stretch.

10. As for the actual game, the Hawks went up by a 73-52 count in the third quarter, and that’s likely when you changed the channel. But you missed quite a bit, as the Cavs dominated the rest of the quarter — taking an 89-87 lead on a Caris LeVert corner 3-pointer.

11. That’s when the Cavs seemingly ran out of gas, scoring a measly 12 points in the fourth.

12. Still, they had their chances. Rookie Craig Porter Jr. (remember him?) sank a shot to tie it at 93-all, giving this the look of a night that might go down to the last shot. But it was nothing of the sort, with the Hawks swiftly closing the game on a 19-8 run.

13. Jarrett Allen led the Cavs with 18 points and an impressive 19 rebounds. Isaac Okoro also had a nice night with 17 points, and Darius Garland added 15 and seven assists, but finished just 3-of-11 on threes.

14. LeVert and Porter Jr. added 13 apiece in reserve. So did Georges Niang, who got a rare start. Dean Wade, the hero of Tuesday’s home win over Boston with a career-high 23, scored nine vs. the Hawks.

15. Saddiq Bey and Bogdan Bogdanovic each had 23 points to lead Atlanta (28-34), which continues to make a run at the playoffs despite the absence of injured guard Trae Young (finger/hand).

16. On the downside for the Hawks, forward Jalen Johnson sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and never returned. Johnson is having a career season.

17. But the Cavs have their own injury issues, and it may have cost them on this night. No matter, they have a pretty good hold on third in the Eastern Conference, and frankly, all they likely need to do is stay around .500 the rest of the month to keep their spot.

18. Right now, though, the question seems to be if they can get healthy enough to do even that much.

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