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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 101-95 skid-snapping road victory over the Los Angles Lakers on Sunday night.
1. The Cavs without LeBron James are better than the Lakers without LeBron James. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but it sure is fun for a lot of people to say.
2. Most Cavs fans have their eyes on the draft lottery and really only care about winning two games. They lost the first one against LeBron and the Lakers in Cleveland. But the Cavs delivered Sunday. Most Cavs fans don’t care that LeBron (groin) didn’t play. Some may even like it better this way. Maybe LeBron will think he left something not-so-bad for something worse.
3. As you probably know, this snapped a 12-game losing streak for the Cavs (9-35). As far as a lot of fans are concerned, they can go ahead and lose another 12 straight now. This really was the Cavs’ championship. And hey, when you’re a team fighting for the No. 1 overall pick, the occasional small victory can mean a lot.
4. All five starters reached double figures in scoring as the Cavs played their guts out in building an early 28-13 lead. The Cavs also surrendered just 95 points — after giving up 140 and 141, respectively, in the first two games of this six-game road swing.
5. Some of that had to do with the Lakers (23-21), who dropped into an eighth-place tie with the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference playoff race. The Lakers tend to stand around, dribble too much and then take bad shots at the end of the shot clock. Like LeBron’s Cavs teams, they tend to play their best against top-notch opponents, then baffle you by struggling with inferior opponents at home.
6. Of course, they’re less that way with a healthy James, but not a lot less. In terms of issues (playing to the level of the competition, missing too many throws, wondering who is supposed to bring the ball up the floor), these Lakers are very much like LeBron’s Cavs from 2014-18. Only difference is, the Lakers are in the West. That’s a pretty big difference.
7. The balanced Cavs were led by Cedi Osman, who scored 20. Rodney Hood added 18, including the free throws to ice it. Collin Sexton and Alec Burks scored 17 apiece, and Tristan Thompson went for 15 points and 14 rebounds.
8. Osman and Sexton both played their best game in a month, likely longer. Burks buried a couple of big free throws himself, and Thompson could be seen leading in the huddle, directing his teammates and swatting a couple of shots. “Full-team effort,” Thompson told FOX Sports Ohio.
9. Amazingly, usual scoring ace Jordan Clarkson only had nine and the Cavs’ bench tallied just 14 points overall. Yet they won on the road, anyway. For instance, Matthew Dellavedova only had three points, but played a very nice floor game and offered his typical dose of pesky defense.
10. Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was again fantastic, scoring 29 points and hitting a huge 3-pointer in the final minute. Brandon Ingram also had a nice game with 22. But unlike Kuzma, I’m not so sure Ingram actually helps you win games. He’s a dynamic young player with great length, but is he a fit? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers move him before the trade deadline, or at least before next season.
11. The Lakers finished 7-of-31 on threes (21 percent) and worse, went just 16-of-27 on free throws (59 percent). If this team hopes to get to the playoffs and do something once there, it had better start knocking down those foul shots.
12. Anyway, back to the Cavs. No pressure on them to get to the playoffs this year. All the front office and coach Larry Drew really want is for them to give the type of effort they gave Sunday. Not all the time, but most nights.
13. The Cavs aren’t concerned with wins (and that’s a good thing, I suppose) but they do want to see who scraps, fights and claws. We all know Tristan and Delly will do it. Sexton sure did it vs. the Lakers. Even Burks got poked in the eye before making the game’s final free throw.
14. Bottom line: This game doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things for this year’s Cavs. But it might for this year’s Lakers. I mean, imagine if they end up missing the playoffs by a game. Would Cavs fans end up holding another parade?
15. Final word from Sexton, who described his rookie season as fun: “Just the camaraderie. Just the togetherness that we have. Even though we’re losing, we’re still making sure we stay together and making sure we’re still uplifting each other. When it’s like that it’s like a brotherhood.”