This was dominance from the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a 122-99 win, the Cavs took down the Utah Jazz with ease. Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points in his first game against his former team with Darius Garland adding 17 points and 8 assists.
Darius Garland in a groove
The past few games have not been Garland’s best scoring performances. Whatever the cause — maybe fatigue, maybe just some off nights, maybe a mix of both — his shot has just been off, falling just short.
That was not the case Monday. Garland was excellent, manipulating the space the Jazz offered him without a paint-manning big in the middle and without a strong, bigger defensive guard on him to disrupt his looks. He, as he does, probed, but was decisive when he found something he liked instead of taking a dribble too many or forcing a shot too early before he found room to work. He didn’t overdo it.
This was Garland at his scoring best, something he’s sometimes struggled to be as he and Donovan Mitchell still learn to play off of one another.
Also please stop hitting this man in the face. Garland got called for a foul here on a play where he was smacked like he was fighting a Diaz brother. Brutal.
PLEASE STOP HITTING DARIUS IN THE FACE. pic.twitter.com/SQZTQwJhZp— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) December 20, 2022
Let’s go back to the Cavs’ Saturday overtime win against the Dallas Mavericks for a moment. Cleveland won, yes, but it was not a good performance. They were, in their own words, lethargic and just didn’t have it. They played like a team that was on the second night of a back-to-back and dealing with travel fatigue.
Cleveland did not look like that against Utah. They came out hard on defense, going through screens, contesting shots and sticking to their man. They cut with effort, ran through their sets instead of slowing the pace down and hunting for isos. They got out on the break when the opportunities presented themselves.
Kevin Love was making defensive plays, including a contest at the rim. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: Kevin Love successfully defended the paint in this game. That doesn’t happen unless he’s locked in and giving real effort.
Most notably, they handled whatever the Jazz through at them. Coming out of the second half, the Jazz came out with energy, had a 5-0 run and punched the Cavs back. It prompted a Cavs timeout with their lead inching toward single digits. Any momentum, however small, the Jazz was snuffed out there.
This is what a Cavs team playing with energy can look like. They defend hard to a man. They press their advantages. They don’t let up. That can lead to dominant wins like this.
Jarrett Allen, breaker of worlds
This was an A+ Jarrett Allen performance, and perhaps his most explosive of the year. He was at his normal level of defense — manning the paint, contesting drives to the rim, eating up shot attempts as they come in.
That’s all great. But what takes Allen performances up a notch is what he’s finishing with power. He’s not just grabbing lobs or a hitting a cute little baby hook. When Allen is dunking with this kind of strength, your choices are to foul him or get out the way. That’s it.
Up next: The Cavs continue their homestand on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.