The bench turned this game around.
The Cavs initially struggled to get shots to fall against Miami’s zone as they fell behind 17-11 after seven minutes.
That all changed when J.B. Bickerstaff subbed in Isaac Okoro, Caris LeVert and Cedi Osman. The trio, surrounded by a guard and one of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, changed the complexion of the game entirely. They ignited a 17 to 10 run to close the first. They picked up right where they left off in the second with an extended 21 to 5 run before Osman and LeVert were subbed off. The Cavs never looked back from there.
Going small worked against the zone.
The bench was able to make their run by primarily going small. This lineup was necessitated with Kevin Love being out with a thumb injury.
The run started with the five-man lineup of Darius Garland, LeVert, Okoro, Osman and Evan Mobley. This was the first time this five-man unit has seen the floor this season and it worked well. The lineup swapped out Garland for Donovan Mitchell and Mobley for Allen without missing a beat.
Having five players who are comfortable pushing in transition and driving to the basket in the half-court allowed the Cavs to dribble penetrate and move the defense enough to consistently create open looks.
Miami’s lack of size due to injuries meant that the unit was able to survive and thrive defensively even though Osman was playing the four. This formula won’t work against many teams as there wasn’t much interior defense or rebounding on the floor. That said, it’s nice to know that this is a formula that J.B. can go to when the matchup calls for it.
Isaac Okoro takes another step in the right direction.
Okoro had one of his better games of the season tonight. He finished the game with 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting with 4 boards and 2 assists in 29 minutes of play.
It’s no coincidence that Okoro found his confidence again in a smaller Cavalier lineup. Going small with only one of Allen or Mobley on the floor with no other traditional bigs requires the four surrounding players to be constantly active which benefits Okoro’s style of play immensely.
The energy on both ends allowed Okoro to get away from the corner and do what he does best. Attack the basket without multiple bigs in the way. We’ll see if he can carry this momentum forward with him.
Cedi Osman is the plus/minus god.
The Cavs lost the 12 minutes Osman wasn’t on the floor by 13 points. That didn’t matter though because the Cavs were 39 (!) points better than the Heat with Osman. He finished the night with 20 points on 4 of 11 shooting with 12 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block.
Osman has made a habit of being on the floor for Cavalanches this season. His ability to space the floor and provide energy when things are going his way like they were tonight is infectious. He was able to provide second chances by grabbing four offensive boards which helped break Miami’s will while allowing the Cavs to continue to play small.
Osman has had a tough go of it recently. He didn’t register any minutes in the second half Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets. He’s also seen his playing time reduced by 9 minutes since the Cavs begun their recent five-game losing streak. Love’s injury gave him a chance for consistent playing time tonight and he made the most of it.
Donovan Mitchell speaks on Cedi Osman's performance tonight, saying that he has the team's trust and it's great seeing him have nights like this. He then says tonight's game was important for the team's morale, as he emphasizes the importance on controlling what they can control. pic.twitter.com/Hudf4S4yfC— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) November 21, 2022
The usual suspects performed well.
It’d be wrong not to mention the contributions of the Cavs’ core four in this dominating win.
Garland continued his string of good play. His ability to captain the second unit trio at the end of the first and beginning of the second was essential in the lineup working. Garland added an efficient 25 points on 7 of 12 shooting with 7 assists. He also had 5 turnovers on the night which is less than ideal as he had 8 in Friday’s win. This is something he will look to clean up.
Allen had a tough start to the night as Bam Adebayo hit multiple jumpers in a row over him to start the game. The all-star center bounced back to have a solid night as he finished with 8 points, 6 boards, and 2 assists in just 27 minutes of play.
Mobley also had an efficient night scoring as he contributed 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting with 10 assists. His playmaking was one of the keys in breaking Miami’s zone as he finished with 5 assists.
Mitchell made the most of the 26 and a half minutes he played by pouring in 13 points with 5 assists and 2 steals.
The bench and supporting cast were the stories of the game, but the core four all had solid outings in the win. more importantly none of them played over 30 minutes which is helpful considering the Cavs will be back in action tomorrow.
Up next: The Cavs will look to avenge their loss in the play-in Monday night as they take on the Atlanta Hawks. Tip-off is at 7 PM.