Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 135-126 road loss to the Pacers on Thursday. …
1. These are some hard times for the Cavs, a third straight loss after five straight wins. And it has sort of been that way all season.
2. Let me start by saying the Cavs played hard on this night. They truly gave it their all. It didn’t seem to be an effort issue.
3. Let me add that the Pacers seemed to make everything they threw at the basket, anyway. Yes, the Cavs had a few lapses on defense. But good defense or bad defense … it didn’t seem to matter. The Pacers just didn’t miss.
4. You don’t want to get too caught up in these December games or overanalyze things. There is still more than a half season to go. That said, it sure would’ve been nice to get this one, because looked like they had it there for a while.
5. I’ll stick to what I wrote earlier, and that’s the Cavs’ need for a reliable and consistent third scoring option beyond Donovan Mitchell (28 points) and Darius Garland (18 points, eight assists, 8-of-11 shooting).
6. Entering the season, I thought that man would be Caris LeVert (19 points). And if not LeVert, then Evan Mobley (13 points, 5-of-10 shooting). That has not been the case. Neither has been consistent.
6. I’m not about to pick on Mobley, so don’t misunderstand what I’m about to write. But he’s taken a very obvious step back. He was remarkable during the first three months of his career. He has not been as good since, and he’s definitely not as good this season as he was last.
7. I feel as if I keep writing that — but it’s to the point now where it’s a concern. Not a huge concern, but at least a little one.
8. Meanwhile, Jarrett Allen (19 points, 14 rebounds) was fantastic. Isaac Okoro (10 points, 4-of-4 shooting) has also been much better lately. Lamar Stevens (seven points, lots of hustle) had his moments. Cedi Osman did not play. It’s hard to know the reasoning on Osman. Not saying I disagree. Just saying I’m not sure I understand.
9. While I wouldn’t call this a “disappointing” loss, coach J.B. Bickerstaff has other ideas. What he said, though, was true.
10. Bickerstaff to reporters: “We know how we have to play to win. For whatever reason, we decided we wanted to play Pacers basketball. We don’t win playing other people’s style. We win playing Cleveland Cavaliers basketball.”
11. Then Bickerstaff shrugged. “We’ve got a decision to make,” he said. “How often we’re going to continue to play (our game).”
12. This can be the plight of a team with a young core that features the likes of Garland, Mobley, Allen, Okoro and Stevens. You get caught up in the moment. More experienced teams that have been to the playoffs know not to do that. These Cavs sometimes learn things the hard way.
13. As of now, the Cavs (22-14) are two games ahead of last year’s pace — when they were 20-16 after 36 games. Interestingly, the Cavs were riding a three-game losing streak at this time last year. Frankly, I think they are still adjusting to the Mitchell trade. Again, I think they need someone else to come alive in the reliability department.
14. Garland’s defense wasn’t very good. It rarely is. But he really struggled to contain Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, a feisty young player who’s having a banner season. Haliburton finished with 29 points, Buddy Hield scored 25 and magnificent rookie Bennedict Mathurin and Aaron Nesmith added 23 and 22, respectively.
15. The Pacers (19-17) are way ahead of schedule. They were supposed to tank. But yeah, try selling that idea to talented and hungry players. Coach Rick Carlisle was ejected from this game, but he’s working wonders. Indiana also has the Cavs’ first-rounder as part of the Ricky Rubio trade.
16. Bottom line: The Cavs are still tons of fun and still have a bright future. I still love what they’re building, still think there are plenty of reasons to be excited and following along. Losing streaks will happen during an 82-game marathon. Do they still have some work to do? Sure. But the big picture is good, and that’s what matters here.
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