The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-104, behind strong performances from Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. After finding themselves down 84-73 in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run to take the lead and never gave it up. Mobley led the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points (11-16 FG, 0-2 3PT) and added nine rebounds and four assists. Love tallied 20 points (6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Love has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He’s played well with increased minutes as the Cavaliers have seen a number of players go down with injury or Covid absences. Allen notched 18 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3PT), 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Lamar Steven added 15 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT), three assists, two assists, and one steal. Lauri Markkanen finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaac Okoro played just 12 minutes and had to leave the game due to an elbow injury. He finished the game with 2 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. He was one made three, one free-throw, one turnover, and one personal foul away from a really exciting stat line. The Cavaliers were without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman as both entered the league’s health and safety protocols) while Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio are out due to season-ending knee injuries.

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Patrick James Riley is 76 years old and no less competitive than he was pacing the sidelines for the Lakers, Knicks, and Heat. He certainly wants to win another championship before he retires. Riley and Butler made sure the long-held expectation that Kyle Lowry would join the Miami Heat this offseason held firm. However, the Heat were forced to part ways with Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic—the apparently unpaid model for Big Face Coffee—in the sign-and-trade that brought Lowry to Biscayne Bay. The Heat are hoping Lowry’s three-point shooting, playmaking, and toughness imbue the team with new life and help them recapture some of the bubble magic that escaped them last season. Everything starts with their three stars— Butler, Lowry, and Bam Adebayo—and they need those players to remain healthy if they want to reach their full potential and secure a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will be leaning heavily on their player development this season. Players like Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, KZ Okpala, and Omer Yurtseven could be more central to the Heat’s success than anyone outside the organization ever expected.

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Lots of question marks around Miami’s reload in the Eastern conference this year.  Their unraveled depth and #HeatCulture rose them through the gauntlets of the Eastern Conference bubble to rise from the 5th seed to Eastern Conference Champs.  Their core is fired up, focused, and gaining continuity.  I see seven solid rotation players.  This year, with the losses of Goran “Dragon” Dragic (16/3/5 in 28 minutes), Jae Crowder (10/6/2.8 in 29 minutes), and Derrick “Air Plane Mode” Jones Jr. (8/4/1 in 23 minutes) it remains to be seen how Riley and Spoelstra work their magic to fill out this roster.

Those three rotation players have left with a total of 34 points per game.  How will end-of-bench role players step up with their new opportunities?  Why was Udonis Haslem’s contract extended? Does Iguodala have anything left in the tank to earn the two-year, $20 million extension he got?  So many questions surround the depth and bench this year.  With only 10 guaranteed players under contract, how will management round out this roster?

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