Dribbles: Home Can Help Make Cavs' Process More Bearable
CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 110-104 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.
1. John Beilein said it last week, right around the time the Cavs' six-game losing streak started. "Sometimes all you need is that one win to start feeling good again," he said.
2. I don't know if this was that win. It sure wasn't always pretty. But there were some bright spots, and not just the final score. As Beilein mentioned, the Cavs withstood several runs. At times, it got shaky. But they survived.
3. This was the first of six straight games at home. I mention that a lot because it matters. Nearly everything is new with this team. When that's the case, playing in your own gym counts for a lot.
4. Beilein may be 66-years old, but he's a rookie. Darius Garland, 19, is a rookie who starts. Kevin Porter Jr., also 19, is a rookie who receives plenty of minutes. Collin Sexton, 20, would still be the kid on this team if it weren't for Garland and Porter.
5. It's easy to expect Garland, Porter and Sexton to perform like seasoned pros. After all, they're all a major part of the team. But this is a rebuilding situation with new pieces, young parts and lots of adjustments -- from the coaching staff on down. If they have to win ugly sometimes, so be it. They'll take it.
6. As I wrote in my game recap, the Cavs returned from their blowout loss to Dallas at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. They had just lost by 42 points to conclude an ugly three-game trip. They needed to see that their scrappiness would mean something again. They needed to build a lead and hold it. On Saturday, both of those things happened.
7. Jordan Clarkson had his best game as a member of the Cavaliers by scoring 28 points and draining all six of his 3-pointers. A few of them very clearly broke the Blazers' spirit. That was especially the case with Clarkson's three to beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter.
8. The Cavs also needed a strong performance from Tristan Thompson, as Kevin Love missed his second game with a lower back contusion. Thompson delivered. He finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and countless hustle plays. That broke him out of a bit of a spell. In the previous four games, he averaged 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.
9. It's true that the Blazers were missing big, physical center Hassan Whiteside, out with a hip injury. Whiteside isn't an All-Star, or anything close. But he has always caused problems for the Cavs, even during the LeBron James-era.
10. Blazers guard Damian Lillard (23 points) was also a bit rusty after missing the previous two games with back spasms. He hit one biggie late, but missed several more. On this night, the fourth quarter never turned into "Dame Time." Instead, it mostly belonged to the Cavs.
11. If you think the Cavs can have issues, just imagine how the Blazers (5-12) must feel. They made it to the Western Conference finals last season. Now, they felt it necessary to sign Carmelo Anthony (11 points) just to try to plug some holes. Anthony had not played in a year. It showed on this night, as he went 0-of-8 on threes.
12. Yes, the Cavs have a better record than a team that went to the West finals last season. The Blazers also thought they would be improved after the addition of Whiteside. It may not mean anything, but it just goes to show that nearly everyone has their struggles from time to time.
13. Sexton finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. But for the second time this week, he didn't garner an assist. Let's not focus on that today. We all know he needs serious work in that area. He seems to know it, too.
14. Larry Nance Jr. (11 points, 12 rebounds) did his usual underrated job, filling in for Love and making some winning plays. Cedi Osman didn't score much (five points), but at least did some other things well. He matched Nance with 12 boards and led the team with five assists.
15. Osman could use some confidence-building performances. Maybe this was one. He doesn't need to be a 20-point scorer. He does need to be consistently better.
16. You can read my full recap here: Grit returns, Clarkson and Cavaliers bounce Blazers.
17. In case you haven't noticed (and I wouldn't blame you), my plan in my new job at SI.com is to write a game recap and Dribbles after every Cavs home game, and just Dribbles after road games. So far, I'm batting a thousand. Thanks for following along.
18. Next up: The Cavs get a day off, then host the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. Kyrie Irving is injured and will miss the game. Big shock there, huh?