The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business on Wednesday night.
In a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Cavs led by as many as 32 and won 113-85. Cleveland broke the game up with a 44-point second quarter where they shot 15-16 from the field and 5-5 from three.
Hounding Joel Embiid
Cleveland came into this game with a clear game plan for defending Joel Embiid: Give him no room to breath. It resulted in three first half three second violations as they shaded towards Embiid, but it also worked in limiting one of the best players in the league.
With no Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley took on the primary assignment with someone else (mostly Mamadi Diakite, making a fill-in start) helping over to have two bodies on him at all times. When he caught the ball at the free throw line, Mobley was there with someone on the wing (often Donovan Mitchell) sliding over to help. Even when Embiid scored — and he did, because he’s Joel Embiid — he had to work.
The end result: A big Cavs win where Embiid had 19 points on 6-16 shooting. He didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter.
Caris LeVert, looking alive
LeVert has looked uncomfortable in his last several games, both before he missed time with an ankle sprain and in his returning from said ankle sprain on Monday against Toronto. LeVert has felt like he’s searching, trying to find his rhythm again after he had a really strong start to the year. In his last four games before Wednesday, LeVert was a combined 4-25 from the field, including a 1-12 mark from three.
Let’s see how this keeps up. But Wednesday LeVert finished 8-11 from the field for 22 points to go with 4 assists and 6 rebounds. He looked comfortable and sure of himself, making decisive moves with the ball and getting downhill instead of settling and taking three-pointers when they presented themselves.
This was the best version of LeVert. Even if he’s not as accurate every night going forward, perhaps this is a game that gets him back in rhythm. The Cavs need someone to breakdown defenses that isn’t one of Mitchell or Garland and right now, LeVert is the best hope for that.
Evan Mobley, again efficient
Speaking of Mobley, he had a strong offensive performance. He finished the night 8-10 from the field for 16 points to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
His scoring popped in this one,. There was a fair bit of simple, easy looks at the rim for him — think of the one dunk he had from an Isaac Okoro pass when the Cavs got out on the break. But there was also moments going right at Embiid or hitting a pull-up mid-range shot over Embiid that he set up with a dribble.
Postgame, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff called him “assertive.” That’s the right word for it. His best offensive nights are not high volume — those nights are for Garland or Mitchell or LeVert. But when Mobley is assertive, he takes advantage of most of the shots he takes.
Up next: The Cavs play at home again on Friday when they host the Orlando Magic. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.