The Cavs beat a Timberwolves team on Saturday that without Karl-Anthony Towns — its best player — and Andrew Wiggins. And they did it without Kevin Love, securing a 94-88 victory right after being bulldozed by the Celtics.
Darius Garland stands out
This was, without question, one of Darius Garland’s best games. In 29 minutes, Garland shot 8-11 from the field, finished with 18 points and dished out 3 assists. He did have 5 turnovers, but that’s fine — he’s still learning. Just about every other aspect of his game was exactly what you want from Garland right now. That includes his shot profile, where he did work near the rim and behind the arc with just a dash of mid-range work:
Over his last 10 games, Garland has hit levels above his overall season numbers. Over that span, he’s been shooting 45.2% from the field and 39.2% from three on 5.1 attempts per game. Clearly, he’s starting to look more comfortable and like the player the Cavs want him to be.
Winning without Kevin Love
This was not the prettiest win. It was close late and things were overall mucked up for much of the game. In today’s NBA, 94-88 is the equivalent of a rock fight. No Towns and Love — the two best players in the game — certainly contributed to that. But for the Cavs, a win is a win and winning without Love is itself a big deal.
Despite what the on/off numbers indicate, Love is part of the core of this Cavs’ team success and its identity. For the team to win without him is a sign of growth in some way. It certainly doesn’t feel like the type of win Cleveland would have picked up last year.
Good feelings aside, this was not a win where the Cavs did well. Per Cleaning The Class, Cleveland was in the seventh percentile of offenses with its 92.2 offensive rating against the Timberwolves. The Cavs also posted a 32.4% turnover percentage, putting them literally among the worst performances of all teams in the NBA this year.
Aside from Garland, no Cavalier had a good offensive night. This was as sloppy and poor as the team has played this year and on most nights the team probably loses. But Cleveland did just enough and the Timberwolves were just as bad, if not worse. Sometimes, that’s enough.
The Cavs are back in action on New Year’s Eve, taking on the Raptors in Toronto. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.