The Cavs have had a tough week, with games against the Rockets, Spurs and Bucks. That’s two MVP candidates in a week and a well-run, well-coached team in the span of a few days. Saturday, against Giannis Antetokounmpo, was the second MVP frontrunner. And while he didn’t score as much as James Harden, Cleveland lost by much more.
Final score: Bucks 125, Cavs 108. Let’s get into it.
Negative: Turnovers again crush the Cavs
Turnovers are an ongoing weakness for this Cavs team. Per Cleaning The Glass, they entered Saturday’s game with the fourth-worst turnover percentage in the league with key rotation pieces like Kevin Love, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. all turning the ball over in droves. That problem reared its head against the Bucks Saturday, with 17 turnovers leading to 19 points.
Earlier this week, Cleveland survived a worse night against San Antonio to win in overtime. That is going to be the outlier more than it is the norm with Saturday’s game surviving as a reminder that this team has not shot of winning most night if it is giving away free points.
Positive: Signs of life from Darius Garland
Darius Garland has some warts. Which is fine, because he’s still learning and still finding his way. Saturday was a night where he looked like he was finding his way a bit more. His final stat line: 10 points on 4-11 shooting, 2-5 from three, five assists, three turnovers. four rebounds.
That was not the best night for Garland. But he played with some confidence and feel for the game that hasn’t always been there. His willingness to launch three-pointers, in particular, is a good sign. Another: a no-look pass to a cutting John Henson in the first half.
The one issue with his night is still his reliance on his floater once he gets into the paint. But in time, perhaps that shot will become a more reliable tool.
Negative: Collin Sexton, the passer
Collin Sexton is probably never going to be a lead distributor. Passing others open and knowing when a teammate is more open than him are in his DNA as a player. That can be fine — there are players who have made long careers and made lots of money getting buckets first and foremost.
But the Cavs need just a little bit more from Sexton as a passer. He had one assists on Saturday, the eighth time this season he’s had either zero or one assist in a game. His high on the season is six.
Per Cleaning The Glass, he is near the bottom of the league in assist to usage ratio and assist percentage. When he’s on the floor, he tends to be a black hole. Against the Bucks, that happened over and over again with players like Love and Thompson open when Sexton forced up a shot or drove into the body of his defender. This stagnates the Cavs’ offense at time. It also puts more pressure than is necessary on Garland to be a distributor right now. Something has to give here for that backcourt to work now and later.