Cleveland Cavaliers: Hawks Backcourt Struggles As Cavs Continue To Roll

Cleveland Cavaliers: Hawks Backcourt Struggles As Cavs Continue To Roll

Drew Thirion
1 week ago
2 min read
Cleveland Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell celebrates in the fourth quarter during game vs. Hawks

Finally, the Cavs' defense showed up. Last night the Cavaliers played like a team on a mission, defeating the Atlanta Hawks 114-102.

Best Cavs Have Looked All Season

I don’t mean this as an overreaction, but that was the best the Cavs have looked all season. There were mild issues, but against one of the best teams in the East, the Cavs dominated all night long. 

Donovan Mitchell was the full package. He controlled both ends of the floor. He generated multiple steals when he was guarding the pick-and-roll, while also making Dejounte Murray's life a nightmare. 

He wasn’t strictly guarding Murray, but he made everything so difficult for him when he was. Murray was a rough 4-17 from the field, and it was mostly due to settling for rushed and contested shots. 

Mitchell also controlled the game on offense. Besides his near 30-point outing, he also dished out 9 assists and drew a ton of attention from the Hawks’ defense. 

Darius Garland had multiple wide-open looks when the entire Hawks defense would crash in on a Mitchell drive. He’s such a dynamic driver, that he makes every other Cavaliers' job significantly easier. Tonight was no different.

Cavs Execute Defensive Gameplan

The Cavs did a pretty solid job slowing down Trae Young as well. They threw multiple different defenders on him, rotating who would be pressuring him on the ball. It’s a tiring job chasing Young off the three-point line, so mixing up who was guarding him worked wonders.

One of the players tasked with guarding Young was the third-year man out of Penn State, Lamar Stevens. Last night was a true “he belongs” game for Stevens. He only had 8 points in his newfound starting role, but he was active on the defensive end, while not being a detriment to the Cavs on offense. 

Stevens is everything you wanted out of Isaac Okoro, while also shooting 40% from three. He was huge down the stretch, hitting a three-pointer in the 4th quarter, then running the fast break on the next possession, and euro-stepping his way into a quick layup. The Cavs were in control of the game from that point forward. 

Cleveland decided they weren’t going to let Trae Young or Dejounte Murray beat them last night, and it worked. 

The bigs played more help defense than they have all year, and let guys like Onyeka Okongwu and John Collins have nice performances. You can beat the Hawks if those guys are the main scoring threats. 

What Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen did on defense won’t show up in the stat sheet, but their value was immense. Those two are Cleveland’s tone-setters. They’ve raised their energy during the win streak and the rest of the team has followed suit.

Cleveland can go as far as this defense leads them, and when you hold elite offenses to right around 100 points, you’ll find yourself winning a lot of games this year.

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