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Mamadi Diakite leads the Cleveland Charge past the Motor City Cruise 120-100

Diakite scores 22 points in the win on Black Panther night.

Iowa Wolves v Cleveland Charge Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

This game was not for the faint of heart. Neither the Motor City Cruise nor the Cleveland Charge were able to get the lid off the basket from deep. The Cruise went 6 of 35 (17.1%) from deep while the Charge went 12 for 38 (31.6%). The Cruise play a defensive first, switchy defensive band of basketball with four starters between 6’ 5” and 6’ 7”. They look to push in transition but struggle to convert in the half-court. The poor outside shooting from both sides made it a grind-it-out battle inside through the first three quarters.

That changed in the fourth as the Charge finally broke their opponent’s will. Cleveland outscored Motor City 41 to 21 in the final frame to run away with a 20-point victory.

Sharife Cooper led the Charge again in scoring as he totaled 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting with 4 assists and 6 turnovers. Nate Hinton had a nice showing as well as he contributed 19 points and 2 steals while knocking down 5 of his 8 attempts from deep.

Former Cleveland Cavaliers’ two-way player R.J. Nembhard Jr. made his first trip back to Cleveland. He put up 13 points and 3 assists against his former team.

Mamadi Diakite, who earned that two-way spot from Nembhard in training camp, was the Charge’s best player all evening. His athleticism was a notch above what the Cruise were throwing his way which allowed him to get to the basket better than anyone else on the team which paid dividends since the outside shot wasn’t falling for the team. He finished the evening with 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting which included canning 2 of his 6 attempts from beyond the arc. He also added in 10 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block while being a game-high +28.

“A lot of things went right today,” said Diakite when asked about his performance. “I’m getting used to playing with the guys. The coaches are pushing everyone to play that right way which resulted in the win tonight.”

The Charge’s offense struggled to generate clean looks to open the game. This was especially true for Isaiah Mobley who finished the first half with 4 points on 2 of 7 shooting.

Mobley made a concerted effort to get more involved against the undersized front court in the second half. He came out with two baskets in the post to open the third. Overall, the rookie had a stronger showing in the second half as he finished the evening with 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting with 10 boards and 3 assists.

Despite the less-than-stellar box score numbers, Diakite was still impressed with the rookie’s resolve. “You have to come ready and play your game. We have a guy here in Isaiah Mobley who doesn’t care who he’s playing against. That’s the same thing with me.”

Mobley and the rest of the Charge struggled to contain the shorter but stronger Cruise center Devontae Cacok. He was able to take advantage of Mobley in space and in the post repeatedly which highlighted how this is still an adjustment period for the rookie. Cacok led the Cruise with 28 points on 12 of 21 shooting and 12 boards including 4 on the offensive end.

The same was true offensively as Mobley never was able to get as comfortable as he’s seemed in other matchups. Still, the team was able to win the minutes he was on the floor while doing enough to get the win.

One of the bright spots for the rookie was the chemistry developing between him and Diakite. The two have connected on a number of give-and-goes including a transition basket to set the tempo in the opening frame.

“We talked a lot before the game and during the game, we exchange stuff as guys try to double him and double me,” said Diakite when asked about the pair’s chemistry. “I remember missing him earlier today at the three-point line. I was a little hesitant as I had someone little on me. I should’ve passed it to him. As we play together we’ll get to a point where we’ll understand each other better.”

Diakite may get his number called shortly as Kevin Love could miss time with a thumb injury. He’s ready when that happens. “All I know is this. You have to stay professional. You have to stay ready no matter what. And when they call your name you have to go to work. That’s the secret.”

Up next: The Charge head out to Fort Wayne to take on the Mad Ants Sunday evening. Tip-off is at 5 P.M.