Dribbles: Cavs Rally For Win, And Look Who’s Rolling Into The Break

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 108-105 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. …Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. Well, at least it’s over and the Cavs won. Those are the two best things they can say about this game.

2. You know what else they can say? How about that they’ve been the best team in the NBA since the first week of January. That sounds pretty cool.

3. It’s true, as the Cavs (36-17) have won 18 of 20 heading into the All-Star break. The last two haven’t been pretty, but don’t let that fool you. This team is legit.

4. This one was good to the last shot — which just happened to be a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer by Bulls guard Coby White. Until then, I’m not so sure he missed. That’s not true, but it sometimes felt that way.

5. Meanwhile, the Cavs spent most of the first half just trying to get something going. And to no avail. They had a measly 43 points and trailed by six at halftime.

6. As coach JB Bickerstaff said, “We played well (in the first half), we just couldn’t make a shot.”

7. At one point, the Cavs trailed by 17 points. But little by little, they started to get into something resembling a rhythm. They completely turned it around in the fourth quarter, scoring 37 big points in the final 12 minutes.

8. During most of the second half, Donovan Mitchell kept pushing, shooting, defending and cheering on his teammates. He was staying positive and refusing to lose. That’s what your All-Star is supposed to do. Mitchell didn’t have a great shooting night (8-of-21) but he still went for 30 points, six rebounds, seven assists and a pair of steals.

9. For most of the night, the Cavs’ second-best player was no less than Isaac Okoro. He scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, again forcing nothing and offering his usual dose of strong position defense. Without Okoro, the Cavs don’t win this game.

10. Bickerstaff on that very idea: “Isaac was awesome. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what he does every single day. He works his tail off. He’s just continued to take steps regardless of what people say about him.”

11. I used to be one of those people — always talking about Okoro’s limitations. Not anymore. He has become one of the Cavs’ many X-factors, and while he may not be heading to Indianapolis for an All-Star ball, he’s a big reason Cleveland basketball is back on the map.

12. Then there was Darius Garland, who was questionable before the game with an illness. At times, he indeed looked out of sorts. But at winning time, he came up big, burying a crucial three with the shot clock winding down. Also, his two made free throws proved to be the winning points. Garland finished with 12 points and tied Mitchell with a game-high seven assists.

13. Evan Mobley (14 points, nine rebounds) and Jarrett Allen (13 and 10, respectively) were solid offensively and did their usual thing by challenging almost everything at the rim. Georges Niang added 11 points and annoyed the opposition before fouling out. So this was another one of those scratch-and-claw teamwide efforts. And the bottom line is the Cavs got a win when they were at less than their best.

14. It may not sound like a big deal, but Bickerstaff only went eight deep with Dean Wade and Sam Merrill out sick. This was the second straight missed game for Wade. When you play and win as a team, even one absence can impact you. So, yes, having neither Wade nor Merrill meant less rest for the other guys.

15. No one who follows this team can forget its rocky start. Injuries, inconsistency, occasional signs of ineptitude … you name it. Things weren’t going well. The fact they have been on the up and up lately is what has their coach particularly pleased.

16. Bickerstaff on the turnaround: “Guys found a way to never jump off the boat. They kept working regardless of what was being said.”

17. The Bulls tried to go big to match Allen and Mobley, inserting reserve center Andre Drummond next to Nikola Vucevic to start the game. It worked for a little bit, but the Cavs eventually had their way in the paint, outscoring Chicago by a 52-28 count.

18. White was fantastic with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting. That included 5-of-8 on threes. DeMar DeRozan added 24 and again showed why he’s the king of the midrange game. Nonetheless, it looks to be another lost season for the Bulls (26-29).

19. On the other hand, the Cavs are now two games ahead of Milwaukee for first place in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference. They’re also four games in front of New York and 4.5 ahead of Philadelphia. They won’t be catching Boston, but I definitely could see them entering the playoffs as the East’s No. 2 seed.

20. Finally, one last reminder that my new hourlong show debuts on the wildly popular 330 To Go Facebook page on Thursday at 6 p.m. It will run every Thursday throughout the season. You can check it out here. Happy All-Star Break.

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  1. I didn’t see the beginning quarter & a half of the game. Not sure I even wanted to venture into that considering the Cav’s starting out so flat & being down so much. But I did.
    & I’ve got to commend the team for a gutty performance. Just as you said, wasn’t at all pretty, But some, Allen & Mobley were splendid, Okoro was on his game, & Donovan did just as you said, pushing & cheering on the rest of the team to a win.

    The thing I was so impressed with was, actually Darius Garland. I still saw a bit of “old” Garland, but boy in the fourth Qtr, particularly, the last 3 or 4 minutes, he turned his talent button on.
    He was actually guarding people closer and moving in ways to really be a positive and of course you mentioned those his last 5 points couldn’t have come at a better time. But he was active, active, like it meant something rather than just moving from behind. That’s the Garland they’ve needed to show up, & He did, not just coasting & zipping super fast passes no one can catch.
    Hope they can continue after the A S break.

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