Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 118-115 overtime loss to the visiting Spurs on Saturday:
1. Fun all-around game, and if I’m the Cavs, I’m not too panicked over the end result. As Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters: “Anybody’s game. Comes down to making shots. At the end of regulation we had some great shots that didn’t go down. In overtime they had some great shots that didn’t go down. It happens.”
2. This would be a bit more concerning if the Cavs had lost this one in say, late March. But for whatever reason, LeBron James and his teams always seem to be in “chill mode” in January.
3. That’s straight observation and I have no actual stats to back it up. But I know what I see, and this month, the defending champions have been average.
4. It may be time to start Kyle Korver if I’m coach Tyronn Lue. (And coach Tyronn Lue is grateful I’m not.) But Korver may be more effective alongside the Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, all of whom could create some open looks for the veteran shooting guard.
5. Plus, Iman Shumpert is having a strong season — and the bench could definitely use his defense and younger legs off the bench.
6. I’m not saying the Cavs need to make some sort of desperate move. They will survive just fine for now as is. But now is a good time to mix things up, try new rotations, etc. The Cavs’ only goal right now is to maintain their lead in the Eastern Conference. Experimenting certainly won’t hurt that mission.
8. I also wrote a column for NEO Sports Insiders on the five things we learned from the Cavs’ loss.
9. That’s a lot for a regular-season game that truly was meaningless. But it was classic game, a game that brought out the best (and sometimes the worst) in two true contenders.
10. If I’m the Cavs (30-12), I’d almost rather see the Warriors than the Spurs in the finals. The Warriors can be explosive and self-destruct. LeBron and Lue can outwit them, and Kyrie Irving typically outplays Steph Curry.
11. But Popovich, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs? Well, they almost never beat themselves. Not in June, anyway.
12. One thing I didn’t like was the Cavs committing so many turnovers and taking some not-so-great shots in key moments. James hit a monster 3-pointer at the end of regulation, but failed to come through in the clutch of overtime.
13. He told reporters that “we botched the play.” Yes, you go down as a team. But James forced a pass in the corner when no one was there. There was too much time left to hurry a pass and just assume someone would be where they were supposed to be. That one is mostly on LeBron.
14. But again, those things happen. The bottom line on the Cavs is they just aren’t as focused as they should be, especially in games against top-five opponents. Still, they’re in no trouble whatsoever. And maybe that right there is part of the problem.
15. Irving was brilliant with 29 points and nine assists. I want to see him with the ball more often at crunch time. LeBron also scored 29, and Tristan Thompson went for 14 points and 12 rebounds.
16. Kevin Love returned from his sore lower back to score 13 and pull down 11 boards. But he went just 3-of-10 on threes. It’s important that he remain confident in his perimeter shot, because the Cavs are really gonna need it.
17. As for the Spurs (34-9), you can’t help but respect them. Leonard has been amazing lately, scoring a career-high 41 vs. the Cavs. They are a class organization through and through.
18. Finally, I’m excited for the Cavs’ game at New Orleans on Monday. For one, it will be interesting to see how the Cavs respond and if they make any changes. Second, I thoroughly enjoy watching Pelicans center Anthony Davis. Third, I also enjoy watching Pelicans rookie guard Buddy Hield. I think he’ll be a real star someday. Fourth, well, it’s basketball. Isn’t that enough?