A lot of it can be attributed to Donovan Mitchell, who should be a serious candidate for NBA MVP this season. Darius Garland, Mitchell’s co-star, was just as dynamic and the tandem was showing what they could be capable of when everything’s firing on all cylinders. Today, we’ll break that down and more in some key takeaways from Cleveland’s loss in the Cream City.
Spida-Land blasting the Bucks
On the offensive side of the ball, things will begin and end for the Cavaliers for Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. It’s still a work in progress overall considering Garland missed so much time due to an inner eye laceration, but, we’re starting to get a glimpse of how things can function between the two stars.
During the team’s west coast road trip, the duo averaged 49.6 points per game and 14.0 assists per game all while connecting on 37.1% of their three-point attempts combined. In Wednesday’s game against the Bucks, they had similar production with 46 points, 11 assists and connected on 42.1% of their three-pointers.
Sure, the extreme three-point percentage is partially a product of how Milwaukee plays defense. But, more than anything, it could give a glimpse of how things will look when things are firing on all cylinders. Again, Cleveland’s offense begins and ends with Mitchell and Garland. So, if they’re looking this sharp already this early into the season, it’s a promising sign of what the future holds.
Evan Mobley looking a bit more comfortable on offense
When Evan Mobley went down with an ankle injury during the preseason, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was mildly concerned. No, it isn’t what Mobley can do defensively that Bickerstaff was worried about, it was the offense. With the Cavaliers building a new offensive identity spearheaded by Mitchell and Garland, players like Mobley need to adapt.
While Garland was out, Mobley and Mitchell were forced to get acquainted with one another. But, with Garland back in the fold, Mobley’s offensive game dissipated a bit. It’s unfortunate, but natural, to see it happen since, again, the offense will always run through Mitchell and Garland, not Mobley. But, after having a frustrating game against Rudy Gobert and Minnesota Timberwolves, there were some quiet concerns about Mobley’s offense repertoire heading into his second professional season.
Well, it appears that the Cavaliers heard some of the outside noise and made Mobley a consistent option on offense all throughout the game. Mobley finished the night with 20 points and made contributions elsewhere across the board. Not only that, but, Bickerstaff and the Cavaliers also called Mobley’s number at times in isolation as well and responded well. Empowering Mobley is going to be key for Cleveland on offense and should unlock more for the Cavaliers long-term.
It’s for sure something worth watching as Cleveland plays host to a crappy Charlotte Hornets team, with little big-man depth, on Friday night.
The tangible lack of Jarrett Allen
Let’s be honest, with as good as Mobley looked on offense on Wednesday night, he still looked overwhelmed at times on defense. In the third quarter alone, the Cavaliers gave up 22 points inside the arc to the Bucks and 12 points on the perimeter to George Hill and Brook Lopez, Mobley’s primary defensive assignment. That third-quarter burst set the tone for how the second half went for Cleveland. But, with how the Bucks scored all game long, what happened in the third quarter felt like more of the same.
The Bucks outrebounded the Cavaliers 52-34. Milwaukee also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and scored 21 second-chance points. That’s suboptimal, to say the least, but, to be fair to Cleveland, it was the lack of Jarrett Allen on the floor tonight that played a factor in this disparity. Sure, Allen doesn’t change Lopez bombing away from three-point range. But, having a big body with the defensive acumen like Allen would’ve slowed the flow of the offensive attack on the interior and also control the rebounding issues.
Sources say that the Cavaliers are hoping to keep Allen off the court for as long as possible to allow his ankle to properly heal. So, with a bad Hornets team on deck on Friday and then a tough back-to-back against the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat to follow, it’ll be tough to say when Allen could return to the floor. Allen is the defensive lynchpin in so many ways for how Cleveland functions. It’s understating things how much he’s missed.
Up next: The Cavaliers host the Charlotte Hornets at home on Friday. The tip-off is set for 7:30 PM.