This wasn’t the most exciting week of Cleveland Cavaliers’ basketball. The Cavs went 0-3 this week with losses to the Miami Heat and two disappointing, albeit for different reasons, losses to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Here’s what we learned.
Darius Garland is showing flashes of being good.
Arguably the most encouraging thing we saw this week was Garland’s 11-point third quarter against Miami. The Cavs’ top pick converted a step back three which seemed to give him the confidence he needed to be more assertive. As a result, he played arguably his most aggressive stretch where he was actively hunting out his shot. He finished the quarter going four of six from the field and three of four from deep with two assists.
Unfortunately, Garland wasn’t able to carry that success into Sunday’s game. He started the game out with a nice and-one and a step back three, but that fizzled out into an underwhelming 4-13 performance.
Garland has had nice moments, but the overall body of work isn’t good. He’s struggled to find and knock down his shot with any consistency. That isn’t uncommon for a rookie. Especially one that missed nearly all of last season. Garland’s third quarter in Miami points to what his game could look like if/when he begins to reach his potential. The skills are there, he just needs to become more comfortable in the NBA.
The Cavs need both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to be their best to beat good teams.
The Cavs had a chance to win Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia thanks to strong performances from the championship frontcourt. Love and Thompson combined for 37 points and 20 rebounds. This was good enough to get them within a point of beating one of the best teams in the conference.
The other two games show the other side of that equation. Love put up 21 and 10 against Miami, but Thompson was held to just four points and three rebounds as the Cavs were beat easily. They both struggled Sunday and the results were as you’d expect.
The Cavs aren’t good enough to beat top teams yet.
Going off the last point, the Cavs simply don’t have the talent to beat the top teams yet. However, besides Sunday’s loss against the Sixers, the Cavs have been competitive in every game this season. They’ve had a chance to win games in the fourth quarter against good teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, and Dallas but they haven’t been able to finish the job yet. Conversely, the Cavs for the most part have taken care of average to bad teams. Cleveland is currently 1-7 against teams with a winning record and 3-1 against teams without.
The Cavaliers appear to be a well coached team prepared for every game. I believe that’s why they’ve been able to take care of business against evenly matched or poorer competition thus far. Unfortunately that only goes so far against superior talent. Even the best jockey can’t carry the horse across the finish line. The players have to be the difference makers.
This week the Cavs will face two teams currently in the top eight in their conference and two that aren’t. We’ll see if this trend of beating the bad teams, but losing to the good teams continues as rigidly as it has so far.