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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 124-117 needed victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
1. That was exciting. That was LeBron James again putting on an amazing show. That was Cavs basketball at its most enjoyable.
2. Lots of storylines to this one, as James recorded his third triple-double in four games and 16th of the season. At the age of 33.
3. James’ final remarkable numbers: 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Somehow, though, that basically took a backseat to the other news of the day. But that’s just the kind of year it’s been.
4. LeBron on the Cavs: “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
5. On Monday, the one thing was Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announcing he was taking time away with some health concerns. One of those concerns, Lue said, was chest pains.
6. As for the other thing … All-Star power forward Kevin Love (hand) returned to the lineup after a 21-game absence. He scored 18 points in 21 minutes, proving that things in Cleveland will unquestionably be better with more Love.
7. You can read my more-detailed report of Love’s return right here. Mostly, just know that this was his first game since the Feb. 8 trades that brought in George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson. Of course, only Hill and Clarkson played, as Nance Jr. and Hood are injured.
8. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
9. Either way, it’s probably just as meaningful to Love that he no longer has to share the floor (or ball) with Isaiah Thomas. Love will learn quickly that his new teammates have no agenda other than to win. If he can help them do it (and they seem to think he can), they’ll get him the ball. James always has. Now, it will be up to Love to deliver.
10. Love described his return as “a little bit sloppy there, but I’ll take a win in my first game back.”
11. So will the Cavs (41-29), who are a half-game ahead of Indiana for the third playoff seed in the East. Fifth-place Washington is a full game back.
12. Meanwhile, Lue’s replacement is associate head coach Larry Drew. If you think Lue is laid-back, just wait until you get a load of Drew.
13. Drew is a highly intelligent man and basketball lifer. He doesn’t get too up or too down, simply cheering on the players and keeping things positive with a professional approach. There’s no telling when Lue may be back, but until he returns, the Cavs are in good hands.
14. Jeff Green gave yet another underrated showing with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He also played a team-high 41 minutes.
15. Clarkson again offered instant offense off the bench, scoring 17. Ante Zizic continued to do a nice job in increased minutes, with 13 points and six rebounds. Kyle Korver started and tallied 11 points in the first half (finishing with 12).
16. If the Cavs ever get their full arsenal back, they may really have something special here. But you know the Cavs. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
17. Something else to consider: The Cavs are really good, record-wise, when Jose Calderon plays. He only had five points, but Calderon is perhaps the most comfortable player on the team not named LeBron when it comes to setting up teammates.
18. Hill, of course, did not score — taking just two shots in 21 minutes. Hill is a veteran point guard and a nice player, but still trying to figure out his role with the Cavs. Meanwhile, Calderon has benefited from being on the team all season. He clearly understands what he’s out there to do, and that’s to keep the ball moving and make open shots when the opportunity arises.
19. The Cavs actually built a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, and a lot of the success had to do with the play of their bench. That’s a a good sign for a team that could use more of them.
20. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 37 and very well may be MVP of this league someday. But he couldn’t stop the older James on this day.
21. Antetokounmpo on James: “I was talking to myself when I was taking a shower and I was like, ‘OK, what did I do wrong today guarding LeBron?’ Because he’s the first player who ever scored 40 on me that easy. It’s hard; (he’s) a guy that can drive the ball, shoot the ball, especially late in his career now he’s been shooting the ball amazing. He’s getting his teammates in the right spot. He’s the best player in the world. That simple.”
22. Now comes a biggie for the Cavs, a home date with East-leading Toronto on Wednesday. LeBron’s teams tend to send a message in late-season games like this (such as last year in Boston). Now would be a good time to do it again.