Darius Garland’s injury dampered the night
Garland didn’t have a strong season debut — 2-8 from the field for 4 points, 5 turnovers vs. 3 assists — and seemed to be pressing against a lengthy, aggressive Raptors team. That’s fine — bad games happen.
The troubling part here is Garland’s injury. It’s not clear now how serious it is, but it’s obviously not great for a team to lose their All-Star point guard on opening night. This is the point of the year where the Cavs — having Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen together on the floor for the first time — want to build chemistry, not have it delayed.
This injury also just sounds gruesome. More on this as more information comes out.
#Cavs J.B. Bickerstaff said Darius Garland has a laceration on the inside of his eyelid. "So obviously uncomfortable spot. His head and everything was clear, but he was cut and bleeding pretty bad from the inside of his eyelid."— Kelsey Russo (@kelseyyrusso) October 20, 2022
Donovan Mitchell, as advertised
Mitchell, in his official Cavs debut, was sensational. He finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-21 shooting, 9 assists and two steals. It was a classic Mitchell performance, a mix of pure shot making and downhill aggression that opens up open shots for teammates. Cedi Osman, in particular, benefited from sharing the court with Mitchell enroute to a 17-point night. He was 3-6 from three.
Parts integrating Mitchell — defensive scheme, chemistry with teammates, general comfort with a new environment — are going to take time. But he’s going to be doing things like this from the get go. Particularly after Garland went out, Mitchell’s minutes were how they keep battling with the Raptors even as the game got tighter in the second half
Isaac Okoro didn’t do much of anything
Coming off of two strong preseason games, this was the worst possible performance for Okoro.
He played just under 12 minutes, including 2 after the half. He took one shot — a wide-open three-pointer Evan Mobley fed him at the end of the first half. He missed it by a country mile. On defense, his much better skill, he committed four fouls. Against Toronto, Okoro provided nothing.
This is a problem for two reasons. For one, the Cavs need Okoro to be competent. If he was better on offense in this game, perhaps Cleveland could have turned to him late when the Raptors repeatedly pulverized Caris LeVert. Okoro isn’t so stout he can handle a Pascal Siakam drive, but he likely would hold up better and not give up easy shot after easy shot in the paint. The Cavs needed an option there and he was the obvious one had he shown any pulse on offense Wednesday.
Secondly, the Cavs’ depth isn’t strong. They have four very good players and a mix of role players all of whom have warts. If Okoro — or any other player currently in the rotation — has an off night or can’t be trusted for whatever reason, it puts even more pressure on the best players on the roster.
The Cavs need more from Okoro. There’s just no way around it. He can’t have games like this if Cleveland is going to beat good teams.