In their first game after losing Jarrett Allen long-term, the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed alright for now. Sure, the Indiana Pacers are putrid - they’re trying to be as they embark on a rebuild. But, Indiana kept things interesting throughout as Cleveland once again struggled to contain the Pacers.
Even after the 126-124 win over Indiana, the Cavaliers remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. But, with the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls both inactive, Cleveland has narrowed the gap in climbing up the standings in the vaunted East. Sure, remaining in sixth means the Cavaliers avoid the play-in tournament. But, the fact that they’re a few wins closer to hosting a first-round playoff series certainly feels realistic.
With Allen out, a lot more weight was put on the shoulders of Cleveland rookie Evan Mobley. Prior to the game head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that Mobley would be featured a lot more offensively and that became evident early into Tuesday’s contest. Mobley stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals and 1 block.
The rookie big man also was a key part in the Cavaliers pushing the pace as well, looking to keep up the free-spirited Pacers. Helping Mobley in that effort was Darius Garland — who had 41 points on 14-26 shooting along with 5 rebounds and 13 assists. Garland’s 41 points are a new career-high for Garland. Rounding things out was Lauri Markkanen who chipped in 21 points on 8-14 shooting.
At one point in this game, Markkanen was steady from the floor - hitting 7 of his first 11 shots. Speaking of 7-Eleven, Indiana seemed like they were always open on offense. After coming into the game laser-focused on defense, the Cavaliers unraveled on that end - giving up easy looks throughout the game. Tyrese Haliburton was the high man for the Pacers with 25 points and 9 assists. Indiana’s bench did the most overall damage though - outscoring Cleveland’s 56-22.
The Cavaliers also clamped down on the Pacers defensively in the fourth quarter and put Indiana away for good.
Again, this game was an important one to help the Cavaliers and their crusade on the Eastern Conference. So, no matter how ugly the results are at the end of the day a win is still a win. With the Bulls looming, the Cavs are now one step closer to overtaking them standing-wise. It might get uglier with Allen out. But, for now, the kids are alright for Cleveland.
Up next: The Cavs are off until Friday night where they play the Heat in Miami. They’re in Chicago to take on the Bulls immediately after. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. ET.