Dribbles: LeBron saves Cavs’ fairly dreary day

LeBron James scored 26 points and hit the game-winner to help the Cavs stay unbeaten at home.
Sam Amico
Sam Amico

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Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ squeaker of a 90-88 win over the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

1. All that matters is the win. Especially when you consider the Cavs didn’t exactly play their best game of the season. Far from it actually — as they shot just 40 percent on the night.

2. The Cavs (13-4) were lumbering through their third game in four nights. The Nets (3-13) had been off since Wednesday. The Cavs also played and won a close game Friday at Charlotte. None of this is an excuse, because these Cavs should beat these Nets no matter when, where or how they meet. But they had tired legs and it showed.

3. That was especially the case in the first quarter, when the Cavs were a miserable 31 percent from the field. They missed easy shots, threw lazy passes and did a lot of standing around. And the defense wasn’t much better.

4. If anything, winning this game is a real credit to the Cavs. They dug deep on an off night when it probably felt like they had nothing left. They made sure they didn’t lose to an inferior opponent. The Nets were also a determined opponent. As LeBron James (26 points and the game-winner) told FOX Sports Ohio after, the Cavs will undoubtedly get every team’s best shot.

5. How dire did it seem? Well, the Cavs trailed 83-76 with 4:40 left in the game. But they stayed with it and reclaimed the lead courtesy of an 8-0 run — spearheaded by You Know Who.

6. LeBron also buried two big free throws with 16 seconds remaining to put the Cavs up 88-85. Most nights in the NBA, the outcome is fairly determined at that point, the final moments becoming little more than a free-throw shooting contest.

7. Two things you definitely don’t want to do in those situations: A). Give up a 3-pointer; B). Foul.

8. J.R. Smith pretty much did both — as Nets swingman Joe Johnson got Smith to leap into the air and commit a foul. Johnson was attempting a 3-pointer. That means he got three free throws. He made all three.

9. But the Cavs have LeBron James and no one else does. As you’ve certainly seen by now, James drove the lane and buried a running one-handed floater with a second left. Game over. For the ninth time in nine home games, Cavs win.

10. Kevin Love (26 points) had another outstanding night. He went 8-of-14 from the field, including 6-of-11 on threes. He basically was the entire offense in the third quarter. The Cavs were going through long droughts and settling for jumpers. Love, at least, was making his.

11. Mo Williams (14 points) also had another solid night, keeping the Cavs in it during the first half. Somewhat surprisingly, Williams didn’t make a 3-pointer, missing his lone attempt. But per usual, he did a nice job from mid-range.

12. The Nets certainly don’t seem as bad as their record. Brook Lopez (22 points, 10-of-15 shooting, nine rebounds) is an underrated center and as efficient as they come. Johnson (17 points) can still give them a lift from the perimeter and forward Thaddeus Young (16) always seems to give the Cavs fits. This is a veteran team with a good coach in Lionel Hollins — so I don’t get it.

13. The Nets also lost to the undefeated Golden State Warriors on the road. And much like the Cavs, the Warriors struggled, before finally winning in overtime.

14. As Love told FOX Sports Ohio, it’s a matter of resilience. “It’s not always gonna be pretty,” he said, and man he’s right about that one.

15. But again, all that matters is the win. The Cavs did the necessary little things, even when things looked bleak, to pull it out. That included suffocating the Nets into 29 percent shooting in the fourth.

16. LeBron’s shot was a little bit runner, a little bit baby hook. He said that was a first as far as game-winners go. “I’ve made layups, I’ve made pull-ups, obviously I’ve made step-back jumpers,” he said. “I might go for the sky hook next time.”

17. Finally, Cavs coach David Blatt smiled when talking about the night’s final basket. “Yeah, just the way I drew it up,” he said. “Yep. Give it to No. 23.”