Kevin Porter Jr. might be a name you want to remember. The 19-year-old rookie put together his best performance of the season in what is becoming an increasingly impressive campaign, and brought the Cavs back in a game they were struggling to score. He won’t turn 20 until early May, and is quickly becoming a (the?) franchise cornerstone. With the Cleveland Cavaliers down 19 heading into the fourth quarter, the Cavs relied on a bench unit with Porter, Tristan Thompson, and Larry Nance Jr. 17 minutes of game action later, the Cavs finished the game with a six point lead.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, 125. The Miami Heat, 119.
About Kevin Porter Jr.
Forty-ne minutes, 30 points, 18 shots, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. The Cavs outscored the Heat by 22 points in his time on the court, and he was only on the bench for 12 minutes. JB Bickerstaff rode him (and the rest of the bench) long past when he should have been able to maintain the energy, but it didn’t matter. The Heat are not a good team on the road, but they are a team that’s near the top of the Eastern Conference, and it would have been pretty easy for the Cavs to roll over. In a lot of ways, Porter wouldn’t let them.
Most importantly, the team may be on to something. It’s somewhat famous that Altman saw Porter in a scrimmage the year before he started his freshman year of college and fell in love with him, and to this date it might be the best decision he’s made as general manager of the Cavs. He’s incredibly young, he’s been fine to come off the bench, and he seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder in all the right ways. It seems as though vets like Tristan Thompson really enjoy him. You don’t want to push too much on him too fast, but Cleveland fans have to feel good about what they have.
Darius Garland deserves a bit of credit too
Garland’s state line — 14 points on 12 shots, seven assists to two turnovers — won’t stand out or turn heads, but he had two big baskets, one in overtime, and one just before the end of regulation. He forced his way to the free throw line for a couple big points as well. He’s sharing the court at times with Collin Sexton, and that’s probably not easy for him, but he’s hanging in there. Hopefully he was able to recharge a bit at the All-Star break and he can finish the season in a way that builds momentum for an important summer.
Three bigs on the court at once? And it worked?
The fourth quarter also involved Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Larry Nance Jr. sharing the court at once. Maybe it was because Porter was throwing flames at the basket, but the Cavs locked down defensively and it allowed them to slowly claw their back into the game. Thompson and Nance in particular brought energy the whole game and impressed. I wouldn’t bank on this as a long term solution, and there’s that Andre Drummond guy, but hey, enjoy it for now.