Random dribbles following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-113 overtime escape against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.
1. The Cavs were outstanding for a half, which is half less than great but half better than good enough.
2. No, I have no clue when they will put together a complete game.
3. Dwyane Wade, man. On a night when some of the starters seemingly had one eye on Saturday morning cartoons, Wade came off the bench and saved the day. He played with fire, determination.
4. Wade finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and just generally wore the look of a winner.
5. Of course, LeBron James finished with 39 points and 14 rebounds, but because of the OT, played 46 minutes. We’ll get to the latter in a minute.
6. The Cavs trailed all night, including 8-0 to start, when Tyronn Lue was forced to call a timeout. But they overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half, and fought back after trailing by eight points with 5 minutes to go. Their first lead of any sort came in the OT.
7. Wade to reporters on the comeback: “We’re built for when the game slows down, and late in games is when it slows down. And that’s kind of where we are good, that’s what we’re built for. Unfortunately we’ve been in that position a lot and may continue to be. But we’re definitely built for it.”
8. You can always count on Wade for an honest answer, and if the team deserves criticism, he’ll be the first to deliver with it. It’s pretty clear the 35-year-old shooting guard doesn’t put up with any mess.
9. By the way, that was the fourth win in a row for the Cavs (9-7), who have claimed five of six overall. As maddening as they can be from quarter to quarter, they’ve been much better at the bottom line.
10. James was magnificent, Wade was magnificent, Kevin Love (25 points) was very good. That leaves J.R. Smith and Jae Crowder. Neither has been very reliable, and that’s putting it gently when it comes to Smith.
11. Smith finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting. Two of his shots came within the game’s first four minutes. That means he took five shots the rest of the game. Part of that had to do with Wade playing so well. Part of it and perhaps more of it had to do with Smith just not being engaged.
12. Meanwhile, Crowder wasn’t terrible, with nine points and five boards — but the Cavs were hoping for more than “not terrible” from him. It hasn’t been 20 games yet, so he deserves a little time. And one opposing scout predicted he will be much more comfortable when Isaiah Thomas gets on the floor. “Crowder needs a real point guard,” the scout said.
13. I doubt Lue ever starts Jeff Green or Kyle Korver in place of Crowder or Smith. The coach wants firepower off the bench, and Green and Korver provide it. But something has to give with Crowder and Smith. Consistency has not been the name of the game for them.
14. As for James playing 46 minutes … this needs to be addressed. LeBron absolutely has control of his minutes. He can be pushy. Nothing wrong with that. The man just loves to play. And it’s hard to say no. He’s still a basketball maestro. But Lue and James need to figure out a way to get him some rest.
15. LeBron’s heavy minutes really are a testament that the rest of the team isn’t getting it done. Maybe that will change when Thomas finally suits up.
16. It sure won’t be Derrick Rose offering assistance, as the Cavs announced before the game he’s been fitted for a walking boot. Despite not practicing and taking five games off, his ankle injury has somehow gotten worse. Who knows if this whole Rose experiment will work out. I could see the team parting ways with Rose when Thomas returns. Maybe not, but maybe.
17. And yes, Iman Shumpert is out again, this time with a sore knee. He played 11 minutes Friday. Just when Shumpert starts coming around, he gets hurt. It’s been that way his entire career. As the scout said, “He can do some nice things, but you have to make him an insignificant part of the rotation. He’s too erratic.”
18. Right now, though, the Cavs don’t have a choice. Their backcourt is old and battered.
19. James is well aware Kyrie Irving and the Celtics are the current kings of the East, having won 14 in a row after beating the Golden State Warriors the other night. But LeBron doesn’t particularly care.
20. James on the Celtics: “I’ve got too much to worry about around here right now, trying to get our ship going in the right direction.”
21. Or as he said back in 2014, “Just get me to the playoffs.”
22. The Clippers are a mess. They started 4-0. Guess how many times they’ve won since? Try once. They’ve lost seven in a row and stand at 5-9.
23. It may be time to move Blake Griffin (23 points, but 8-of-25 shooting) or DeAndre Jordan (20 points, 22 rebounds, but a horrendous free-throw shooter). They are the only two guys who will bring anything back.
24. The Cavs next play Monday at Detroit and the Pistons’ new Little Caesers Arena. It’s a great building, as I covered a Pistons-Indiana Pacers game there earlier this season. It will be a tough one for the Cavs. The Pistons have slowed down after a great start and are due for a win.