Dribbles: Maybe There's Something Different About Cavs, After All
CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' stunner of a 125-119 overtime win over the Miami Heat on Monday.
1. It started with a 10-0 run by the Heat and ended with a Kevin Love putback in overtime. Somewhere in between, the Cavaliers were both horrible and fantastic.
2. They ended with fantastic. That's all that matters. And hey, when you're not really going anywhere, it also says something. I'm not sure what it says, but it beats the alternative. At the very least, the Cavs put on a great show to close the game.
3. For the first time this season, the Cavs beat the Heat. For the first time this season, the Cavs didn't get completely run out of the gym by the Heat, either. For the first time in a long time, they beat an opponent with high expectations.
4. The Cavs were down, though. Down by a lot -- 22 points late in the third quarter to be exact. But they continued to fight, show heart and seemed to behave as if this game actually meant something. That's about the best you can hope for in another lost year.
5. So the Cavs may be 16-41 overall but they are 2-1 under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Not sure what that means, either. But it might mean something.
6. Now, let's be honest -- there are times when they look every bit as discombobulated as they did under John Beilein. Still, they trailed big at Washington (16 points) and again Monday, and managed to dig deep and play harder.
7. All you can go by is what you see, and based on the results, these Cavs seem to be coming together a little bit. On Monday, they won the fourth quarter and overtime by a combined score of 45-20.
8. Overall, it may have been their best home win of the season, and every bit as surprising as their win at Denver last month.
9. Now, about Kevin Porter Jr. The rookie shooting guard erupted for a career-high 30 points and eight rebounds. He hit the 3-pointer to give the Cavs their first lead, 107-104 in the fourth quarter. He turned all that passion into a positive.
10. Bickerstaff on Porter: "Once he gets going, there aren't many plays he can't make. The bonus for us is he cares about both sides of the ball."
11. Remember, Porter was drafted at No. 30 overall, the final pick of the first round. The Cavs used four second-round picks to land him from Detroit on draft night. So if you ever wonder why GM Koby Altman occasionally likes to stockpile second-rounders ... well, Porter is a good example.
12. Basically, the idea for rebuilding teams is to compile as many assets as you can, use them to find young players, then hope for more hits than misses. Porter is starting to look very much like a hit.
13. Porter on the win: "This was definitely meaningful for growth, and for our future. ... It was funny because we were down by 19 (entering the fourth quarter), and J.B. said, 'The score doesn't matter. Just win this quarter.'"
14. Just as he did in the win at Washington, Bickerstaff implemented a somewhat unconventional lineup Monday, using Porter and fellow rookie Darius Garland in the backcourt, Love and Tristan Thompson up front, and Larry Nance Jr. at small forward.
15. It clicked and did the trick, with the Cavs creating some havoc defensively. "We're going to call on different people," Bickerstaff said. "On any night, it could be your night."
16. Love's big basket came on a follow of a Nance miss, which was tapped to Love by Thompson. It happened with 7.8 seconds left and the Cavs clinging to a 121-118 lead. It was a case of Love and Thompson staying near the basket and ending up in the right spots at the right time.
17. Love credited Porter and Garland, as well as the veterans. "It was just a great showing," he said. "Larry was great, Tristan was great. We were finding each other, playing together and everybody was covering for each other defensively."
18. Love finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Nance scored 16 on 8-of-11 shooting. Thompson scored 15 with nine boards. Garland had 14 points, and Collin Sexton and Andre Drummond 13 apiece. As Love indicated, this is about as close to a total team comeback as we've seen from these Cavs.
19. The Heat (36-21) wiped the floor with the Cavs on Saturday in Miami. They led at halftime in each of the first three meetings by 24, 27 and 33 points, respectively. This looked to be more of the same.
20. They were without starters Jimmy Butler (personal reasons) and Meyers Leonard (ankle), as well as key rookie Tyler Herro (also ankle). But all three were out Saturday too, and it didn't matter. On Monday, they were led by All-Star Bam Adebayo's 22 points and 13 boards.
21. So, it remains to be seen where the Cavs go from here. In their last three games, they would probably like to throw out all but about four of the 12 quarters.
22. I've been covering this game a long time, but I'm still no expert. I'm not stating this as fact. But the Cavs seem to be a little more relaxed with a little more drive since Bickerstaff took over three games ago. We'll see if it sticks.