Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 131-127 escape job of a road win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
1. If you like what you’ve seen of Isaiah Thomas in small doses, just wait until you get a load of the real guy.
2. As you probably know by now, Thomas has played in two games — and the Cavaliers won both. He has scored 36 points (19 against Orlando) in about 40 minutes. He is fun to watch and already fitting in. It appears that, yes, the Cavs received an All-Star in return for Kyrie Irving.
3. Granted, Thomas shot an airball with the outcome in the balance, but we can chalk that up to rust. Besides, Dwyane Wade saved the day with yet another winning play. In case you missed it, Wade plucked Thomas’ shot from the heavens and placed it in the hoop.
4. The Cavs didn’t sign Wade because he can do all the things he used to do. They signed him for his championship mindset, for his toughness, for his leadership and for his ability to deliver in the clutch. When healthy, Wade has displayed all of those things and more — finishing with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds Saturday.
5. Anyway, back to Thomas. He was supposed to be done for the night, exiting about midway through the fourth quarter. The game appeared to belong to the Cavs. Then the Magic came charging back. So Cavs coach Tyronn Lue put Thomas back in with 40 seconds left.
6. Thomas to reporters on getting an extra almost-minute: ““I mean, I looked (at Lue), I think it was 40 seconds left, and I was like, ‘I can at least make some free throws.’ He looked at Steve (Spiro, the Cavaliers’ head athletic trainer) and Steve game him the OK, especially (for) that last 40 seconds.”
7. Thomas added, laughing, “I’m just glad D-Wade looked out for me with the airball.”
8. Of course, no one appears more excited about the addition of a third (or first or second) scorer than LeBron James and Kevin Love. They were both excellent — as James barely missed another triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Love finished with 27 points and went 6-of-12 on 3-pointers.
9. I thought LeBron held on to the ball and dribbled too much toward the end, playing one-on-one and launching a couple ill-advised jumpers. But as a guy who’s used to carrying the team, he’s probably earned that right, no?
10. Besides, it was James who hit Thomas with the pass that led to … well, the airball at the end. But you could tell James wanted Thomas to have a chance to get the glory. Thomas missed, but my guess is everyone (especially James) was equally happy that glory went to Wade.
11. Still not sure what to make of J.R. Smith (10 points, but just four shots). If Kyle Korver doesn’t play well (he didn’t), the Cavs get virtually nothing from the perimeter in the backcourt. At some point, perhaps when Thomas, Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert are totally healthy, Lue will have to put Smith on the bench. But with any luck for the Cavs, Smith will come around before then.
12. Meanwhile, the defense and the rim protection were fairly atrocious for long stretches. The Cavs (26-13) actually decided to defend a little in the third quarter, and that’s what won them the game. They seemed to lose interest after building a 23-point lead.
13. Without a doubt, the Cavs need a someone to defend the rim. That is not the strong suit of Tristan Thompson or Love. The Cavs do have plenty of interest in Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. It would likely mean moving Thompson. I’ll be writing in more detail about that later today.
14. For more on the game, check out Don McCormack’s excellent and thorough recap: IT flashes old magic in first start.