The Cavs lost and Darius Garland looked like the team’s best player. Most nights you’ll take that. Garland has shown flashes of playmaking ability all year, but it hasn’t shown up in the stats. Tonight it did — he had eight assists to just one turnover, and added 14 points. In a game the team lost by three points, the Cavs won his 34 minutes by 17. So, simple math indicates they were outscored by 20 in his 14 minutes on the bench. Not great, but if you had to pick one player to put together a good night, it’s going to be him every time.
On a larger scale, the Cavs were up by 10 points with six minutes left and found a way to lose. Collin Sexton had a classic game where he’d bring something to the table with his energy and athleticism and then promptly take something off it. At the six minute mark John Beilein went away from Garland for three minutes of game action and that might have made the difference.
This game presents questions about who should be closing games for the Cavs. Garland and new addition Dante Exum showed promise together, and are a more comfortable fit. Exum has more length and a little bit more veteran know-how. Theoretically Sexton is a bigger part of the team’s future. He defended well down the stretch. In terms of getting the ball to the right spots offensively, though, he’s not on Garland’s level. There will certainly be nights moving forward when Sexton is outplaying Garland and Beilein wants to go with the hot hand. That was the case at times for Jordan Clarkson, too. But he’s right to stagger Sexton and Garland’s minutes throughout most of the game, and the closing minutes shouldn’t have to be an exception. Of course, egos can make things difficult.
Once again, Terry Rozier destroyed the Cavs. He’s had a difficult season in Charlotte after a difficult season in Boston after a breakout season in Boston before that. He makes a lot of money, though, and looked worth it tonight. He’s from Youngstown, so it’s nice he could show out in his home state. Would that he play to his averages one of these times against us.
Some other thoughts from the game:
- Kevin Love seemed engaged to me. He got frustrated with himself, over Collin Sexton missing a buzzer beater that would have tied it. He probably wants out and that’s fine, but on the court I saw a good teammate.
- Dante Exum played 12 minutes and hopefully it gets closer to 20 sometime soon.
- The team is playing hard for Beilein and they got good offensive looks for a lot of the night. They just missed some open shots.
- Cedi Osman has to continue to find a way to make himself an option offensively. He’s not an NBA starter but he can find a role. He was good in this game, finishing with 17 points on 7-8 shooting.