The Cleveland Cavaliers, in Ricky Rubio’s season debut, overcame 50 points from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard on Thursday night to pick up a 119-113 win. The Cavs did not lead until the fourth quarter.
Donovan Mitchell led the Cavs with 26 points with Darius Garland adding 20 points and 10 assists and Jarrett Allen tying his season-high with 24 points.
Benefiting from Ricky Rubio
Consider this a sample of what Ricky Rubio could bring this Cavs team.
His season debut, just over a year after tearing his ACL, wasn’t long — he only played 10 minutes and 27 seconds. Rubio finished with am modest 9 points and 1 assists. That’s likely far less than he’ll play when he’s really back.
But it was obvious that Rubio offers the Cavs something. He provided a calmness on the court, helping Cleveland navigate some choppy waters and go on a few runs. It was telling that, in the second quarter when the Trail Blazers went on a run, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff called for Rubio. There’s a trust in what Rubio provides and what he can do that this team has been missing. Welcome back.
Jarrett Allen, doing work inside
The Cavs made some shots late, notably an Isaac Okoro corner three and a leaning Donovan Mitchell pull-up in the fourth that gave Cleveland its first lead of the game in the middle of the fourth quarter. But the Cavs’ shooting wasn’t good enough to carry them in this game — they needed something else.
Enter Jarrett Allen. Allen finished 11-17 from the field, catching several lobs and scoring on most of his opportunities around the rim. It was reminiscent of his 24-point, 10-12 shooting night against Portland back in November. Allen’s 17 shots, for what it’s worth, are a new season high. Only two came in the fourth quarter. His previous high was 16 shots on Nov. 4 against the Pistons.
The Cavs needed this. Mitchell and Garland were awesome in the fourth and made all of the big shots. Allen helped keep the Cavs close enough for the fourth quarter heroics to happen.
Donovan Mitchell, professional scorer
Mitchell in the first half: 8 points. 4-12 from the field, 0-4 from three, 4 assists two turnovers. Mitchell in the second half: 18 points, 7-11 from the field, 2-4 from three, 1 assist, 2 turnovers.
It was a Mitchell bucket that have the Cavs their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter. He was off in the first half. And then he shows up and is the dominant offensive force in the second half with a motor that just doesn’t stop and physicality that wore down defenders. He’s been doing it all year, so this isn’t new. But this is superstar-level, All-NBA level, MVP-conversation-level basketball from Mitchell. He’s bringing this just about every night. On Friday, it got the Cavs a win. Players like Mitchell (and Darius Garland and Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen too) are why you can overcome Lillard dropping 50 points.
Up next: The Cavs finish their road trip on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.