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Cleveland Cavaliers: Defense Shows Up To Sweep Weekend Action
The Cleveland Cavaliers got back on track this weekend with an overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets and a blowout win against the injury-riddled Miami Heat.
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Cavs Answer Concerns
This week, I had three main concerns for this Cavs roster, and they answered two of them. The first question was about the starting lineup. JB Bickerstaff moved a struggling Caris LeVert to the bench and in his place started Lamar Stevens.
Stevens wasn’t perfect in his new role, but he was a much-needed boost on the defensive side of things.
LeVert struggled again shooting but decided to improve on things he could control. His playmaking and defense were on full display in both games this weekend. He only scored 4 points over two games but he was a combined +30 this weekend.
He did leave last night’s game with an ankle injury, but he said the exit was more precautionary, and not a lingering problem.
If his injury does hang around for a bit, the Cavs will need more performances that they saw out of Cedi Osman and Isaac Okoro on Sunday. Osman was a scoring machine in his 20-point double-double, but I was far more impressed by the play of Okoro. He shot the ball with confidence and actually drove the ball to the hoop.
Okoro is always a pest defensively, so it’s nice seeing him take and make open shots. If he isn’t a complete black hole on offense, he will find solid minutes in this Cleveland rotation, even when Dean Wade and LeVert are healthy.
The role players had a nice weekend, but the true star was Darius Garland. If anyone was concerned about Garland, he did as good of a job alleviating any questions on how he would fit in with Donovan Mitchell. Garland’s 41-point explosion against the Hornets was nice, but it was the little things he did that excited me.
Last season, when Garland was paired up with Ricky Rubio, he started getting some more opportunities for off-ball threes, and now with Mitchell, those opportunities are coming again. It’s a beautiful thing to watch Mitchell drive to the lane, and kick it out to a wide-open Garland.
In my life, Garland might have the most fluent catch-and-shoot jumper I’ve seen out of a player in the wine and gold. Maybe Kyle Korver, but either way, Garland just has a perfect shot.
Big Men Provide Much Needed Energy
Another huge plus for the Cavs was the big men. They missed Jarrett Allen’s energy on defense. He was hustling for rebounds and making tough shots inside. He also opened things up for his partner Evan Mobley.
Mobley had back-to-back double-doubles and looked the best he had all season. He was far more aggressive than normal and was more involved in things on offense.
At the beginning of the season, it felt like things were being over forced inside to Mobley, but then it changed to him hardly getting touches. This weekend was the happy medium of not forcing him the ball, while also getting him involved in catch-and-shoot mid-range shots, and slashing to the basket in the pick-and-roll.
My final concern for this Cavs roster is a versatile wing. Losing LeVert while also dealing with the Wade and Kevin Love injuries puts more pressure on this starting lineup. I don’t think it would hurt to call up Shariffe Cooper for the time being just for a little bit of depth on the bench.
Cleveland might make a swing on a guy at the trade deadline again, but I think we should go with some in-house “solutions” at first. If not, then we can look for outside help.
Overall, it was great to see the Cavs playing like the junkyard dogs again. The effort level was so much higher than recently and it showed. Defense wins championships, and when the Cavs are giving it their all, they might just be able to win one.
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