Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ thriller of a 107-104 Lottery Bowl victory over the visiting New York Knicks on Monday night.
1. This was as close to a Game 7 as either of these teams will see this season. By losing their 17th straight, the Knicks sort of won.
2. The Knicks (10-46) have the league’s worst record. The Cavs (12-45) aren’t far behind. But when it comes to Tanking for Zion Williamson, neither really matters.
3. If the lottery were held today, both the Cavs and the Knicks would have an equal shot to win the No. 1 overall pick. Same goes for the Phoenix Suns (11-47). That’s because the new rules kick in this spring. Those rules say each of the three worst teams will have an equal chance to finish first.
4. But the Cavs need to be careful. They’re closing in on the Chicago Bulls (13-44) for fourth place. On the bright side, both the fourth- and fifth-worst records aren’t far behind the worst three, percentage-wise, when it comes to winning the lottery.
5. Finishing with the worst record and NOT winning the lottery because of the new rules would be a very Knicks thing to do.
6. As for the Cavs, I’m well aware their fans are in a panic. Many want the Cavs to stop winning. Based on the overall state of things, I doubt that will be an issue. The Cavs can be proud of this win. At the same time, they had to survive a few last-second 3-pointers to hang on at home. Against a team that had lost 16 in a row.
7. This marked the actual real first action for All-Star power forward Kevin Love since toe surgery in early November. (Unless you count the ridiculous six minutes he played Friday.) Love finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. Basically, it only took that long to be reminded he’s the Cavs’ best player.
8. Cavs big man Larry Nance Jr. on Love: “That’s our guy. That’s our rock out there. You always know what you’re going to get from him.”
9. Added guard Jordan Clarkson: “You can see his production in a short amount of time. It’s all there for him. Once he gets back his breathing and shape, he’s going to be a real big help.”
10. There’s more. Cavs coach Larry Drew on Love: “You can clearly see when he’s out on the floor, we have a real good rhythm. Let’s face it: He’s our go-to guy. … He’s always a threat, wherever he is on the floor. Our guys are feeding off that.”
11. That was the Cavs’ first win (in six tries) when Love steps foot on the floor.
12. He is expected to play Wednesday night vs. the Brooklyn Nets as well. I’m not sure what the Cavs’ plan is for Love — other than to bring him along very slowly and let him get used to playing alongside some of the younger guys who are expected to be here next year (Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, etc.).
13. Osman, of course, has ankle injury and didn’t play. But you get the point.
14. Meanwhile, the Cavs have to really like what they’ve seen from Nance lately. Tristan Thompson is still recovering with a sore foot and Nance did his best Thompson impersonation Monday — finishing with 15 points and 16 boards. Nance did it on 5-of-6 shooting, too.
15. Sexton led six Cavs in double-figures with 20 points. I have not given up on the kid. I’m pretty sure the Cavs haven’t either. It will be interesting to see what he looks like in 2019-20, when he has a year of NBA life under his belt and the Cavs presumably have at least one more good young player.
16. Clarkson added 15 points and Matthew Delladova scored 12.
17. As for the new guys, forward Marquese Chriss continued to make the most of his opportunities with 14 points, seven rebounds and lots of hustle. Also, Brandon Knight got his first start as Drew implemented a three-guard attack of Sexton, Knight and David Nwaba. Knight finished with nine points and is now 6-of-7 on threes since the Cavs’ trade with Houston and Sacramento last week.
18. Things didn’t go quite as well for shooting guard Nik Stauskas. He went 1-of-9 from the floor in 20 minutes. Seven of those attempts (and his lone make) were threes. But he did grab five rebounds.
19. And we should cut the man a little slack. He got traded to the Cavs from the Portland Trail Blazers last week. Then the Cavs traded him to the Rockets as part of the trade for Knight and Chriss. Then the Rockets traded him to the Indiana Pacers. Then Pacers waived him. This all happened in four days. I hope he at least got a team hat at each stop.
20. Stauskas was traded (and waived) each time with Wade Baldwin. As far as I know, Baldwin remains unsigned.
21. The Knicks were led by guard Kadeem Allen with a game-high 25 points. He scored 14 last game and the former second-round pick (2017) is making a case for sticking next season — or at least finding an NBA home somewhere.
22. As much as I suspect the Cavs will have a different look next year, the Knicks are dreaming of a team that features Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion. For both of these teams, it’s all about the lottery in May and then the draft that follows at the end of June. But the Knicks aloso have massively high hopes for free agency in July.