Here’s what we learned this week.
Evan Mobley is a sight for sore eyes.
The Cavs lost all four games Mobley was out with an elbow sprain. Cleveland gave up over 100 points in all four games and posted a defensive rating of 113.9.
Things changed when Mobley returned against Orlando. He immediately picked up where he left off on the defensive end by blocking 4 shots, grabbing 9 rebounds and contesting a game-high 16 shots.
The Cavs continue to have a dominate defense with Mobley on the floor and a middle of the road one when he’s off. On the season, the Cavs are giving up 99.5 points per 100 possessions with Mobley and 108.5 points when he’s off the court. They have also surrendered 100 points in only 8 of the 16 games he played with opponents averaging 100.5 points in those games.
Mobley is a one-man wrecking crew on defense. The Cavs have a chance to win any game he plays thanks to his defensive impact. The rookie is going to be an absolute problem for the league when his promising offensive game becomes more consistent.
Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland have incredible chemistry.
Allen had a fantastic week as he averaged 21.3 points on 70.6% shooting with 12.3 boards per game. Garland wasn’t bad either as he put up 23 points and 9.7 assists per game on the week. Their play on both ends allowed for the Cavs to be competitive against more talented Brooklyn and Phoenix teams.
Garland’s feel for the game has taken another step this season. He’s incredibly skilled at creating angles off the dribble and manipulating defenses. Allen’s ability to finish at the rim and catch lobs has become the perfect compliment for Garland and vice versa. As a result, Garland assisted on 12 of Allen’s 24 field goals this week which included assisting on 6 of Allen’s eight baskets Saturday night against the Orlando Magic.
Their offensive chemistry has allowed for an injury riddled offense to stay afloat. It’ll be interesting to see how their offensive chemistry develops as the starting lineup, with the exception of Collin Sexton, is finally back together.
Kevin Love can occasionally block shots.
Love had two blocks this week. To put that in perspective, Love blocked only two shots in 622 minutes last season.
Love will never be a good defender, but he needs to be an active one for the Cavs to win his minutes. Fortunately, Love has been active defensively so far this season while being helpful offensively despite his uncharacteristically inconsistent three-point shot; he’s at just 27.8% so far this season.
It’s nice to see Love blocking shots and not just people on Twitter (please don’t block me Kevin).
Ricky Rubio might have a clutch free-throw problem.
The Suns intentionally fouled Rubio while up three at two separate points in the final ten seconds of Wednesday’s game. The veteran guard missed three of those four attempts (one was an intentional miss) which ended the already slim chance of sending the game to overtime.
This was disappointing since it was the second time this season Rubio has missed clutch free-throws. Rubio missed a chance to put the Cavs up three in the final seconds in a game against the Washington Wizards earlier this month. Kyle Kuzma hit a three on the following possession to give the Wizards the victory.
Rubio has been invaluable for the Cavs this season. They are not .500 at this point without his steading presence and contributions on both ends. The veteran is also one of the Cavs best free-throw shooters (86.4%) and has the best percentage among the guards. That said, hopefully missed late game free-throws don’t become a recurring theme for Rubio.
The Cavs have a fourth quarter problem.
Cleveland was outscored by a combined 42 points (average of -8.4) in their recent five game losing streak. This recent trend is consistent with how they’ve been all season. The Cavs have the 2nd worst net rating in the fourth quarter and are being outscored by 11.7 points per 100 possessions in the final frame.
There are many factors that contribute to this. The lack of depth due to injuries and playing the hardest schedule to date are legitimate excuses for their poor performances in the fourth. That said, this is a concerning trend that has been going on throughout the season.
It’s easy to point to a lack of an isolation scorer as to why the Cavs aren’t able to close these games out. Not having Collin Sexton does hurt as he was by far the Cavs’ best scorer off the dribble (it should be noted that the Cavs were awful in the fourth with Sexton on as the team had a -25.8 net rating in the 67 fourth quarter minutes he played). Garland and Rubio aren’t isolation scorers who are always comfortable creating for themselves.
Despite the offensive concerns, the fourth quarter defense is the biggest reason the Cavs can’t hold onto leads. The defense gave up 30 points or more in the fourth in four of their last six games. On the season, they are giving up 116.4 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter which is worst in the league. For comparison, the Cavs have the 3rd best defense in the first quarter (99.4 defensive rating), 12th best in the second (107.1) and the 2nd best in the third (97.7). On top of that, the Cavs are only grabbing 67.3% of defensive rebounds in the fourth which is also worst in the league. Even when the Cavs are forcing missed shots, they can’t end possessions.
It’s easy to point at the offense for the Cavs’ late game collapses. Missed shots in the last minute are easy to remember. But the offense isn’t the issue. The defense is what is letting them down at the end of games.
Cedi Osman is starring in his role.
Osman has given the Cavs exactly what they needed this season. The fifth-year wing is averaging 11.6 points on 43% shooting from deep on 5.9 attempts per game off the bench.
Cedi’s utility is mostly dependent on how his shot is looking. Right now, things are going well. Osman is shooting 50% on corner threes, 44.4% on pull up threes (1.6 attempts a game) and 42.5% on catch and shoot threes (4.3 attempts). This has led to Osman’s most efficient season in the NBA as he’s posted a 61.6 effective field goal percentage.
Osman is also finishing 70.4% of his shots within three feet compared to the 56.9% he finished last season. This is mostly to do with playing alongside more ball handlers and on a better defensive team. He hasn’t been forced to create for himself in the halfcourt like he has in years past while playing with a better defensive unit has allowed him to get out and run in transition.
It’s nice to see Osman bounce back from a horrendous season. The Cavs will need to continue getting this version of Osman considering their lack of scoring on the wing.