Dribbles: Results Aren't Any Better, But Cavs' Fight Returns

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 110-88 road loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday.

1. It sounds strange to say after a 22-point loss, but this was more like it. The Cavs definitely had their moments. Maybe this was something to build on.

2. The Cavs trailed by 13 at halftime. Then they went down by 29 in the third quarter. That's when some Boston sportswriters tweeted things such as, "The Cavs really stink." (That was actually one of the nicer ones.) At the time, you couldn't blame them. But not long after, a 19-1 run cut the deficit to 13.

3. What did the Cavs do right? Not a lot beyond play with more energy and grit than we've seen in weeks. Tristan Thompson undoubtedly led the way in that department. All he did was finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 8-of-11 from the field.

4. To show you just how relentless Thompson was, eight of his boards came at the offensive end.

5. Cavs coach John Beilein to reporters on Thompson's determination: "He does it every night. Just compare how many touches he got to how many times he attacked the backboard. He is giving us everything he's got."

6. It seems in order for the Cavs to give themselves a chance, three things need to happen, in no particular order: A.) They have to play with passion; B.) Thompson needs to have a very good game; C.) Kevin Love needs to have a very good game.

7. The Cavs got the first two, but Love again struggled offensively. He finished with seven points one outing after scoring six. Over the previous two games combined, Love is shooting 5-of-19. He finished 1-of-7 on 3-pointers vs. the Celtics. To his credit, he did grab 10 rebounds.

8. But those are the numbers of a garbage-pail, energy guy. The Cavs need Love to be more than that. He is just way out of sorts — and my guess is it has something to do with all the trade rumors.

9. Overall, the Cavs were a miserable 7-of-31 on 3-pointers and equally bad 9-of-19 on free throws.

10. Beilein on the loss: "We missed a lot of foul shots. We missed a lot of open threes. We could've made it a closer game. What I did like is we fought all 48 minutes. We played hard against a really good team. We'll take a lot of positives out of this game."

11. Beilein was especially happy with the way the Cavs charged back after getting down by 29. Lately, when the deficit has gotten that big, they've tended to fold. Not on this night. "It's a huge positive that we didn't stop (when down 29)," Beilein said. "We were playing against a team with three All-Stars, maybe more. The fact we stayed in there ... we'll find a lot of good in it."

12. Most nights, it's just a talent deficit. The Cavs almost never have one of the two best all-around players on the floor. Monday, they didn't even have one of the three or four best. It's tough to win in a star-driven league that way.

13. Kevin Porter Jr. scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter. He definitely showed some flashes in the second half. Porter isn't polished enough to start, but he looks to have a bigger upside than current starting small forward Cedi Osman.

14. I would actually like to see more of Porter with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton at the same time. They would probably get run off the court, but what are the Cavs doing anyway? The only way to learn is to experience the tough lessons that are expected this season. May as well go all in.

15. Remember, Porter played in just 21 games last year as a college freshman at USC. Garland appeared in just five at Vanderbilt. Those two really are still like high school players. And Sexton is clearly continuing his own development. He appeared in all 82 games last season and has done the same in all 23 this year. But the's 20-years old and the frustrations and mistakes are going to be there. The Cavs are willing to live with all of it.

16. Beilein on Porter: "You can see why he's out there. He's going to make a lot of mistakes, here and there. We're fine with that as long as he continues to grow. When he's around the rim, it's amazing how quickly the ball goes in the basket."

17. Porter on Porter: "Coming off the bench, you just want to give great energy. That and whatever coach wants me to do."

18. Jordan Clarkson also gave great energy off the bench, scoring a team-high 19 points. He has sort of been MIA recently, so you can be sure Beilein was happy to have Clarkson back in rhythm.

19. By the way, Sexton's streak of 45 straight games with double-figure scoring came to an end. He finished with nine points on 4-of-14 shooting.

20. Love addressed some of the trade buzz in an interview with ESPN earlier Monday. I don't know this with any degree of certainty, and it's not an attempt at any sort of inside information -- but my gut tells me he and the Cavs are equally ready to part ways. I would be surprised if they are together beyond the trade deadline in early February. I'll have much more on that moving forward.

21. Kemba Walker led the Celtics (17-5) with 22 points, including a few back-breaking threes in the fourth. Jaylen Brown was also excellent with 20. Gordon Hayward returned two weeks early from a broken hand and scored 14 points.

22. For more on the game, check out the SI.com recap and box score here.

23. Next up: NBA-leading scorer James Harden and Houston pay their lone visit to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Wednesday. The Rockets now have Russell Westbrook, too. If you love seeing guys light up the scoreboard, you will want to make your way to Cleveland. Harden is quite a show. And the Cavs? Well, it will be another lesson in opposing firepower.