CLEVELAND, Ohio – Scribbles in my notebook the morning after the Cavs crushed Chicago, 115-92, Wednesday night. Their record is now 14-12. They have defeated 10 teams with .500 or better records.
1. I kept staring in amazement at my TV, watching the Cavs slice up the Bulls. They did it on offense. They did it on defense. They did it with effort. They did it like a team that knows this can be a very special season.
2. As coach J.B. Bickerstaff told the media after the game: “It started on Day 1, the day after Labor Day. The guys were in the gym together…they committed to come…They all get along…They fight for each other…They lay it out on the line each game, even the ones we’ve lost…After the game, I watch (the video) and I see the bench…body after body after body…standing up cheering for each other.”
3. Cavs fans also see it. I keep running into fans who say how they love to watch this team. Some have mentioned the Miracle of Richfield Cavs. Others see them as the Cavs of the late 1980s-early 1990s with Mark Price, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty, John “Hot Rod” Williams and coach Lenny Wilkens.
4. More Bickerstaff: “If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to do it as a unit. And the guys know that. They’ve bought into it, and they do it together. It’s every single night. We don’t have the problem of individuals trying to do more. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are bought in and doing it for each other. That’s been consistent for us.”
5. That has showed up all season. I wondered how the Cavs would respond after losing back-to-back games to Utah and Milwaukee, two of the NBA’s premier teams. No disgrace in that. Here came to the Bulls to town with their 17-8 record. The Cavs dismantled them. Chicago shot .417 from the field, .269 on 3-pointers. They won the rebounding battle, 42-27. They forced 18 turnovers.
6. This was the 11th time in 26 games the Cavs have held a team under 100 points. Remember, the average NBA team scores 110. So this is like keeping a team under 90 points in the old days. If you like analytics, the Cavs rank No. 4 in Defensive Efficiency. They had six guys scoring between 11 and 24 points. It was a total team performance.
7. Coach Billy Donovan offered “no excuses” for the performance of his Bulls. Chicago was without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (26.4 points) and a few other key players. But the Bulls’ next three scorers were in the lineup: Zach LaVine (25.8), Nikola Vucevic (15.4) and Lonzo Ball (12.4).
8. Donovan told the media: “I don’t want to take anything away from Cleveland. They deserved to win the game. They overwhelmed us, to be honest with you. They dominated us on both ends of the floor. But I think we are better than that and we need to be better than that.”
9. Donovan watched the Cavs defense go after talented scorers LaVine and Vucevic, holding them to 44 points. That sounds like a lot, but those two players shot 17-of-44 from the field. A wildly gifted player, LaVine opened the game by making 5-of-6 shots. After that, he was 4-of-15 from the field. Give Isaac Okoro credit for slamming down the defense.
10. In this game, the Bulls didn’t work as hard as Milwaukee to force the ball out of the hands of soaring point guard Darius Garland. Nonetheless, Bickerstaff was ready for that. He used an old-fashioned high/low offense: A big man at high post, throwing passes to another big man near the rim. The Cavs’ 7-footers were throwing the ball OVER the Chicago defense.
11. Garland was often setting up Jarrett Allen with the first pass, and Allen was finding Evan Mobley or Lauri Markkanen with passes for dunks and layups. Early in the game, Mobley tormented the Bulls. He scored eight of the Cavs’ first nine points. Mobley had one of his worst games of his rookie year in Monday’s 112-104 loss to Milwaukee as he shot 3-of-10 for 12 points. He had only six rebounds and no blocks, well below his early-career high standard.
12. Against the Bulls, he was 8-of-11 shooting, 16 points. He had nine rebounds and FIVE blocks. With Mobley on the court, the Cavs outscored Chicago by 28 points. He had the most blocks by a Cavs rookie since Roy Hinson had seven in a game in 1984.
13. This from the Cavs: Mobley is the second rookie in franchise history to hit those marks (300 points, 40 blocks) in 22 career games or fewer, joining John “Hot Rod” Williams.
14. Garland was back to his usual form, throwing in 24 points on only 16 field goal attempts. He had six assists compared to only two turnovers. Ricky Rubio came off the bench to lead the Cavs with nine assists and one turnover. These guys are so effective running the offense. It really is a team-first approach.
15. Final words from Garland: “Everybody’s healthy. Everybody’s rolling, making shots. And I credit that to everybody on this team. We’re all hard-working. We get our shots up. We do things to win.”
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