Dribbles: Fight Remains, And For Cavaliers, That's Good Enough

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 108-103 toughie of a road loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

1. The Cavaliers moved the ball and made some timely shots -- just not enough. But you can live with losses like this.

2. The Bulls led 103-101 with 1:15 to go. It was only that close because Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love each buried a 3-pointer. Matthew Dellavedova also knocked down a couple of biggies.

3. But this was a road game and sometimes on the road, the home team is just better. That was the story on this one. The Cavs deserve credit for fighting until the final buzzer.

4. So the Cavs were right there all night. They trailed by two at halftime (54-52). The game was tied at 78-all at the end of the third quarter. It was close until the bitter end.

5. Moral of the story: Even in defeat, the Cavs are showing why coach J.B. Bickerstaff received a multiyear contract extension Tuesday. This is a team that believes. That is way more than you could say for most of the season before the All-Star break.

6. Bickerstaff to reporters on the loss: "I think we could've done a better job of finishing. We did a good job of getting stops at the end, but ..." But the Cavs messed up some crucial possessions with the outcome in the balance. Not a big deal, but that proved to be the difference.

7. Bickerstaff added, "We stressed to the guys before the game, if we get defensive rebounds and keep our turnovers down, we'd have a chance to win." He then noted how the Cavs committed 18 turnovers.

8. Collin Sexton was outstanding. He has been at his best under Bickerstaff, and that's not up for debate. On Tuesday, Sexton finished with 26 points on a sizzling 12-of-16 shooting. He also passed for five assists. 

9. He is playing much more under control, seeing the floor and just displaying a much more complete game. Yet lately, he has still been scoring even more.

10. That's basically een Bickerstaff's message all along. Move the ball, and good things happen, both individually and as a team. 

11. Bickerstaff on the second-year guard: "He's playing off instincts at every moment. He understands the game better."

12. Granted, Sexton missed a key box out on Bulls guard Shaquille Harrison near the end. On the next possession, Sexton committed a biggie of a turnover while dribbling into traffic. But hey, you can't win them all -- and chalk this one up to a learning experience.

13. Other fine Cavs performances were had by Andre Drummond (21 points, seven rebounds), Love (17 points, eight boards), Nance (16 points, 6-of-6 shooting) and Dellavedova (eight points, eight assists).

14. I'm not the coach and would never want to be. But if I'm Bickerstaff, I'm starting Dellavedova even when Darius Garland returns from injury. Delly's never-hold-back style rubs off on the entire team. He has been through a lot more in this league, and simply understands how to run a team better than a rookie.

15. Dellavedova also gets the team into the offense quickly and is the superior defender. That second part is not even close, either.

16. Yes, this is a season of development for players such as Sexton, Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. That's fine. I get it. But a young player such as Garland could benefit by sitting and watching and actually earning his starting role.

17. Garland could still play plenty of minutes in reserve. It might even build his confidence to play against second-stringers. There's a big difference between matching up with Chris Paul and, say, Aaron Holiday. 

18. More than that, though, Dellavedova is just the better point guard. He has won a championship. There would be no shame in Garland finishing the season as Delly's caddy.

19. Bickerstaff on that very subject: "I don't think I've been around a guy with a higher basketball IQ (than Dellavedova). He's a marvel with that ball in his hands. ... He's a jewel for sure."

20. Bickerstaff on Garland and Delly: "Hopefully, Darius is watching. Darius is capable of making those plays. But it's a great opportunity for Darius to sit back and watch."

21. The Cavs (19-46) finished just 6-of-24 on 3-pointers. They made four in the fourth quarter, so that should tell you how awful things were before then. The Bulls (22-43) went 12-of-34 on threes.

22. On the brighter side, the Cavs finished with 29 assists. They now have compiled 24 or more assists in 10 straight games. For those keeping score at home, that streak started one game after Bickerstaff took over.

23. Garland (groin), Porter (concussion protocol), Tristan Thompson (eye) and Dante Exum (ankle) were all out for the Cavs. Bulls guard and leading-scorer Zach LaVine also missed the game.

24. This was the first of six straight road games for the Cavs. Bickerstaff suggested Garland will return during the trip. There's no update on anyone else.

25. In case you missed it, you can read the story on Bickerstaff's extension right here.

26. Next up: The Cavs are off for a couple days before visiting Charlotte on Friday. I can't help but wonder if there will be fans in the stands that night. Here is why.

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