Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland Thrives As Cavs Continue To Struggle
Despite Darius Garland’s 51-point scoring explosion, the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to drop their fourth straight game on Sunday night to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garland’s unreal 27-point fourth quarter wasn’t the whole story, but seeing him step up with Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Dean Wade out with injuries was great.
Lamar Stevens shined in his first real action this season, scoring 15 points on 50% shooting. He wasn’t perfect on the offensive side of things, but he looked good on some baseline cuts and did a solid job with his on-ball defense.
Another substantial moral victory for the Cavs came from Isaac Okoro, who knocked down his first three-pointer of the year in game number 13. But in all seriousness, Okoro looked solid last night. He had the highest +/- of any Cavalier and looked a lot better getting out in transition.
However, this needs to be a stepping stone for Okoro. He must stay aggressive on the offensive side of things, and look to cause havoc defensively.
For the rest of the Cavs, it was rough, especially for Evan Mobley. Something felt off all night for Mobley. There wasn’t much aggression from him all night long. Mobley wasn’t looking to get involved in the offense and looked intimidated by the Timberwolves' big men, Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert.
Mobley’s thrived this year against small ball offenses but really looked overmatched against these two solid centers. Maybe he’s not strong enough to get inside with much larger defenders, but I think more of the issues stem from coaching.
With three key players out for Cleveland last night, the Cavs needed to find unique ways to get Mobley some open looks, but he was never really a part of the offense. As a whole, the offense looked quite bad, besides some set plays for Kevin Love. It certainly felt like JB Bickerstaff relied far too much on slow isolation ball, instead of getting the ball up the court quickly and actually running the offense.
With that being said, the Cavs were missing three good players and still scored 124 points. Not something to be too upset about.
How Can Cavs Stop Skid?
So, what was the real issue? D’Angelo Rusell scoring 30 points on 11/13 shooting, and the Minnesota Timberwolves shooting 50% from three was killer. Not just that, but there was never any defensive presence on the interior for Cleveland.
I don’t want to even blame the big men for this performance, I truly believe this one was on the guards. Garland and Caris LeVert couldn’t keep their man in front of them.
Whenever a Minnesota point guard was switched onto one of them, they immediately slashed toward the basket and were able to find a shooter for an easy basket.
Cleveland has to do a better job at keeping opposing guards out of the lane. Many have pointed their fingers at bad refereeing throughout this losing streak. But, what it truly comes down to is defense.
The Cavs have given up an average of over 120 points per game during this losing streak. What hurts the most is that many of these losses have been late collapses by the defense.
If the Cavs can figure out a way to close out games offensively, they won’t be putting their defense in such difficult spots, especially when they give up easy transition baskets.
It doesn’t get any easier this week for Cleveland. They welcome the current best team in basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, to Rocket Mortgage Field House on Wednesday. Hopefully, most of the team is back to full health and the defense can figure things out. The panic button is nowhere close to being pressed, just currently raising some eyebrows with our current setup.
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