The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to get their first preseason win last night with a strong showing against the Atlanta Hawks. We’re now only six days away from the start of the regular season for the Cavs.
The first sip
Darius Garland has quietly gone about having a fantastic preseason. He finished last night with 24 points on 8 of 21 shooting with 12 assists, 3 steals, while being a plus 24. This is on the heels of a 17 point and 7 assist performance in 21 minutes and a 12 point and 4 assist performance in 15 minutes.
Garland’s feel and confidence for the game seem to have taken a step forward from last season. Here’s a couple under the radar plays that show that best.
Here, we see Garland immediately get out in transition after getting a rebound. He knives to the basket causing the defense to collapse which leads to a simple dump off to Isaac Okoro.
Next, we see a botched pick-and-roll with Jarrett Allen. Garland gets stuck in no-mans land after the ball gets knocked away. Instead of panicking or making the safe pass to Mamadi Diakite in the corner, Garland rifles a pass to an open Cedi Osman in the far corner leading to a three.
Here, Garland probes the middle of the defense drawing all defenders eyes to him. Osman does a good job of moving off ball to generate an open look thanks to a screens from Okoro and Lamar Stevens. Garland’s patience in allowing the play to develop allows Osman the time needed to get open.
Lastly, Garland gets a slipped screen from Diakite. Diakite’s defender stays on Garland with Trae Young trailing behind. Garland continues to move away from Diakite to give him more room. Once he gets far enough away to make the defense commit, he makes the simple pass over to Diakite which leads to a wide open three.
These plays aren’t necessarily high skilled (with the exception of that bullet pass to Osman in the corner). This is just Garland reading and reacting to what the defense is giving him. His feel for the game has improved each year in the league. If he continues to do what he showed on Wednesday night, there’s no reason to believe he can’t take another step forward this season.
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