Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a can of Spectracide to the Charlotte Hornets in double overtime, winning 132-122.
Jarrett Allen’s return is exactly what the doctor ordered
In Cleveland’s last two outings, both losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks, they were worked on the interior. Sure, facing future Hall of Famers like Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo will do that to you. But, when the Cavaliers were outrebounded 99-77 and gave up 23 offensive rebounds, all while making Evan Mobley uncomfortable, you could tell that the lack of Jarrett Allen was hurting Cleveland.
So, when Allen came back Friday night against the Hornets, it was a Panacea for a tattered Cavaliers defense. Cleveland battled Charlotte on the boards, narrowly winning the battle 52-51 and gave up 16 offensive rebounds. Sure, it certainly helps when Charlotte has one of the worst interior presences in the NBA. But, Allen gave Cleveland an imposing presence on the interior and helped the Cavaliers impose their will on both ends of the floor against the hapless Hornets and gave them a bit more balance down low.
Having Allen back also made life a lot easier for Mobley as well. Mobley is best defensively when he’s allowed to play off of Allen, floating as a capable help defender both on the perimeter and in the paint. Again, the lack of physicality from Charlotte’s characterless bigs might have helped. But, Mobley looked a lot more comfortable on both ends of the floor with his co-star out there and finished the night with 21 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.
It’ll remain to be seen what happens this weekend when the Cavaliers have a back-to-back against the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks. Cleveland could rest Allen in one of those games in order to ease him back into the rotation since he’s dealing with a nagging ankle injury. But, in whichever game he plays, the Cavaliers are obviously a lot better with Jarrett Allen back on the floor and look more like themselves.
A new rotation for the Cavaliers that might’ve found success
After Cleveland’s loss to Milwaukee the other night, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff made it seem like serious change was coming to the lineup and rotation. Bickerstaff stayed true to his word against the Hornets, sending Caris LeVert to the bench and naming Lamar Stevens the team’s new starting small forward. Sources said that if Dean Wade were healthy, the Cavaliers would’ve started him instead of Stevens. But, due to Wade dealing with a knee infection, Bickerstaff went with the high-energy Stevens, and clearly, it worked.
Not only that but, Cleveland also had a bit of a different rotation tonight against Charlotte as well. For the better part of the game, here’s who played meaningful minutes for the Cavaliers:
- Darius Garland
- Donovan Mitchell
- Lamar Stevens
- Evan Mobley
- Jarrett Allen
- Caris LeVert
- Kevin Love
- Cedi Osman
- Isaac Okoro
More or less, this rotation makes the most sense for the Cavaliers going forward. When Wade does return to the floor, you’ll likely see Okoro or Osman phased out of the rotation entirely with Stevens soaking up their minutes. When Ricky Rubio returns from his ACL injury recovery, you’ll probably see the rotation expand a bit or things further contract on the back end with Stevens likely being the fall guy.
But, for now, this rotation on paper makes the most sense for Cleveland. It gives them a healthy balance of defense, scoring, shooting and athleticism. It still isn’t perfect, mind you. Not by a long shot. But, the Cavaliers are making the most of a somewhat flawed roster that fits in what their primary strengths are.
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Jokes aside, after struggling a little bit to figure each other out on the floor, Garland and Mitchell might be starting to hit their stride. In their last two games, Cleveland’s backcourt duo has combined for 121 points, 23 assists. That’s pretty good and something you clearly want if you’re the Cavaliers. At the end of the day, Garland and Mitchell are the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end on offense for Cleveland. So, the sooner you figure that out, clearly the better.
The late-game offense is still really, really bad for Cleveland
The subheader says it all. Something’s gotta give for the Cavaliers. You gotta maintain composure and not rely on Garland and Mitchell to always bail you out.
Up next: The Cavaliers are home on Sunday when they host the Miami Heat. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM EST.