Takeaways from the Cavs Season Opener
The Cleveland Cavaliers suffered a tough opening season loss to the Memphis Grizzlies 132-121. Memphis covered the 7.5 point spread and the game went way over its 219 point total.
In last night’s contest, Cleveland showed signs of figuring everything out, but it seems like this unit needs time to mesh with one another. Jarrett Allen starred in the opener going 11-11 from the field and totaling 25 points. Besides Allen, most of the team had an up and down first night, showing this rosters ability to generate elite scoring.
With the quick recap out of the way, here are my key takeaways from last night’s opener.
Garland’s Big 4th Quarter
Darius Garland had a rough first three quarters of play but heated up late, shooting a blistering 3-5 from downtown in the fourth. Yesterday, he only shot 5-15 from the field, but he distributed the ball quite well, amassing a team-high 12 assists.
Garland was far too passive early on in this game. He looked off multiple wide-open catch and shoot attempts, and was very hesitant to take his runner whenever he got into the painted area. I’m glad to see Garland elevate his play-making game, but I want to see far more aggression out of him. He could and should be this teams leading scorer, but he won’t be if he’s unwilling to take open looks from outside the arc.
Evan Mobley Showed Star Potential
Despite his team-low -18 +/-, Evan Mobley looked like he belonged in the big leagues. He filled up the stat sheet in a big way, just missing out on a double-double. But taking stats out of the equation, and just using the eye test, he easily passed on all accords. During last night’s broadcast, Cavaliers play-by-play announcer, John Michael, announced Mobley had already added ten pounds of muscle to his frame since exiting the Summer League.
The additional ten pounds of muscle wasn’t just some talking point, Mobley hung right in with a much bigger, and more physical Jarren Jackson Jr. All night long, Evan was dominant on the defensive end of the floor. Jackson Jr. was 0-9 from inside the three-point line and that was mostly due to Mobley walling up whenever he tried to create contact inside.
I don’t really want to see Mobley leading this team in minutes every night, as his frame isn’t ready for that type of NBA grind; however, Mobley showed that he’s far more pro-ready than most writers (including myself) had ever planned for.
Defense and Threes
Unfortunately, this Cavs team still can’t shoot. Lauri Markkanen was rough in his Cavs debut shooting just 28% from deep. Not only was his percentage bad, but it was the way he missed shots that stung the most. He forced multiple contested jumpers and always seemed to miss the big shots when we needed him most. Not only that, but Markkanen was pitiful on the defensive side of the ball. I’m not even going to blame him for his bad defense, as he was stuck on the Grizzlies’ small forwards most of the night.
Lauri is a below-average defender. We already knew that, so why does J.B. Bickerstaff believe that he’s anywhere near athletic enough to go out and guard the opposing team’s wings. Isaac Okoro needs to see more playing time as he can go out there and pester the opponent’s main scorers. And with how easily Ja Morant was dicing up this defense, Okoro’s defensive presence was sorely missed when he was on the bench.
Cleveland HAS to shoot better from the outside, as they can’t consistently rely on Cedi Osman to go 3-3 from deep. Not only that but if you’re going to be playing your “jumbo lineup” regularly, there has to be a much better defensive paint presence. Take a few more risks down low and stop giving up easy buckets!
Was this opener perfect? Certainly not, but this team showed a ton of heart. Just when you thought Memphis was going to bury them, they fought right back into it, cutting the lead down to one right after the final TV timeout. If Bickerstaff can get his guys to play four quarters of team basketball, making the play-in game might not be out of the picture. Most importantly, we might just have ourselves of a fun season of basketball here in Cleveland.
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