The Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a slow start against the Detroit Pistons. They climbed out of the 12 point first half deficit to grab an ugly 102-94 victory thanks to strong performances from Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley.
Mamadi Diakite provided solid minutes at backup center.
The Robin Lopez experience hasn’t gone well with Jarrett Allen out of the lineup. This was true to start the game as the Pistons jumped out to an early 10-2 lead before Lopez was subbed out.
The slow start shouldn’t be placed entirely on Lopez. He wasn’t the sole reason why the Cavs started poorly, but his declining athleticism makes it difficult to run a consistent offense and defense even if you’re going up against a depleted Pistons’ front court.
Fortunately for the Cavs, Diakite contributed solid minutes when called upon. The two-way big helped changed the momentum of the first half with two quick blocks.
Diakite’s stat line isn’t impressive as he finished with 4 points, 2 boards and 2 blocks. But, he helped turn the momentum in a game that felt like it could get out of hand quickly.
It’s been a weird start to the season for Diakite. He made the team out of training camp by grabbing a two-way contract, but hasn’t been able to get consistent minutes with either team. Diakite has only played in two of the Charge’s first ten games while also playing only three non-garbage time minutes for the Cavs before tonight.
It has to be difficult to stay ready to play when playing time is that difficult to come by while also bouncing back and forth between two teams. To Diakite’s credit, he stayed ready for a moment like this.
Bench contributions kept the Cavs afloat.
Diakite wasn’t the only Cavalier providing consistent minutes off the bench. The entire second unit stepped up in a game the starters didn’t have it going early.
Raul Neto had some of his best minutes in weeks. He gave reliable, in control offense while picking up his man full court at times to disrupt the flow of the Pistons’ offense. Tonight’s 5 point performance in 13 minutes is more in line with what the Cavs were expecting when they signed him to be the backup point guard while Ricky Rubio recovers from his injury.
Cedi Osman had another constructive bench outing even though he, like the rest of the team, couldn’t consistently knock down the three ball. He still found ways to be a positive contributor as he added in 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting with a block.
Cedi Osman says the defense stood out to him the most in the @cavs' comeback victory tonight.— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) November 28, 2022
Osman believes that the team has to focus on their rebounding, as the look ahead to tomorrow night against Toronto.#LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/IucZgHX6ev
Isaac Okoro was once again effective in his minutes. This was especially true down the stretch as he forced Saddiq Bey into a tough shot during the closing minutes. Okoro provided much needed energy on both ends while contributing 7 points and a steal while being a team high +14.
The Cavs’ starters didn’t have it much of the evening. The play of their bench and lesser used reserves kept them in the game while the starters were finding their rhythm.
Free throws matter.
The Pistons shot better from the field (45.6%), had double the second chance points as the Cavs, had more points in the paint, had more fastbreak points and hit the same number of threes as the Cavs. Generally this should lead to a victory.
This however wasn’t the case as the Pistons hit just 14 of their 26 free throws (53.8%) compared to the Cavs who knocked down 28 of their 33 attempts from the charity stripe (84.9%).
Evan Mobley at the five works offensively.
Mobley at the five for extended defensive stretches hasn’t been great throughout his first two years, but it was good enough tonight. His ability to effectively score at the five has never been in question.
The Cavs have had a difficult time finding their identity when Allen isn’t playing. But one of the few benefits of not having Allen out there is giving Mobley more room to operate in the paint and on the perimeter.
That was the case again tonight as he finished with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting with 13 boards while mostly playing center. Mobley doubled his three-point make total on the season by hitting both of his outside shots.
Donovan Mitchell’s fourth quarter saves the day.
The offense had a tough time getting anything going outside of the paint for the first three quarters. They hit 2 of their 21 three-point attempts in the first three quarters. Donovan Mitchell also had a tough time finding the range early. He had 18 points through three quarters, but hit only 5 of his 17 shots from the field.
That changed in the fourth quarter. Mitchell took control of the game scoring 14 points on 4 of 6 shooting in the final frame to put the game away.
The Cavs desperately needed consistent offense with Darius Garland having a tough time connecting from the field. Garland finished the night with 19 points on 4 of 19 shooting with 10 assists.
Games like this are why you pay the price you do for Mitchell. This was a game the Cavs did not have close to their best stuff and probably didn’t deserve to win. Fortunately, Mitchell came through in the clutch to grab the victory.
Up next: It will be a quick turnaround for the Cavs as they had to Canada to take on the Toronto Raptors Monday evening at 7:30 p.m.