The Cleveland Cavaliers almost had a win on Wednesday, until they didn’t.
Behind all five starters finishing in double digits, the Cavs were in position to beat the Memphis Grizzlies (and snap their 10-game winning streak) despite not having Donovan Mitchell. But a five-second call turnover and no good look on their final possession ended any hopes of a win. Final score: Grizzlies 115, Cavs 114. Cleveland falls to 28-18 on the season, including a 9-14 on the road.
Let’s go step by step on how the Cavs fell apart at the end of this game.
- Isaac Okoro’s five-second violation was a killer. Credit to the Grizzlies for defending Cleveland well, but not getting any pass out here was a massive blunder. In that spot, with just one timeout that might be needed for something else, the ball has to get out.
- The game-winning basket was more good execution from Memphis than anything else. Okoro and Jarrett Allen did a good job of making Ja Morant’s life hard as he got to the rim. Behind the play, Steven Adams slipped in front of Evan Mobley and was in perfect position to get a putback. Considering the defensive responsibilities for Mobley, that also makes sense.
ADAMS BUCKET.— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2023
GRIZZLIES WIN THEIR 11TH STRAIGHT pic.twitter.com/H8VzMgUrKh
- Here is where it really unravels. There’s 16 seconds left after Adams scores. Cleveland could have called a timeout there to advance the ball and draw something up. Not calling one there could be fine, but everything unravels from there. Memphis was locked on to Garland from the moment he got the ball. Eventually, it ended up in Caris LeVert’s hands and the Cavs were entirely out of sorts. There was enough time then to call a timeout and run something off the sidelines.
- The Cavs didn’t and the final play was Garland taking a 29-foot three-pointer that was blocked by Dillon Brooks. It was a bad final shot that had zero chance of going in.
- This entire stretch was mismanaged. There’s no guarantee it works out differently if the Cavs do take a timeout, but the odds of a positive outcome would have been higher.
Garland, at an All-Star level
The end of the game, and his blocked final shot, overshadow a stellar, All-Star level performance from Garland.
With no Donovan Mitchell, Garland went back into something like 2021-22 season mode. In 38 minutes, Garland was 7-17 from the floor and 5-11 from three for 24 points to go with 14 assists and just two turnovers. The 2-6 mark on two-point attempts isn’t where you’d want it to be, but he was 5-6 from the line to help make up for it.
As a passer, he was entirely in control of the game. Passes like this lob to Evan Mobley were his regular mode — he’s was just entirely in the flow and keeping everything moving for the Cavs. Without Mitchell playing, Garland needs to play like this.
Aside from last Saturday’s loss to the Timberwolves where he was even, Garland’s been posting high assist-to-turnovers margins in recent performances. He did it again Wednesday. Unfortunately for him, it ended in a loss.
Speaking of Okoro...
The five-second call is bad. But this was a standout Okoro game. He finished a perfect 6-6 from the field and 4-4 from three to go with 17 points. He also had 3 rebounds and 2 blocked shots while playing the best defensive of anyone on Morant.
Time will tell if this level of play (or something close to it) holds for Okoro. But he’s in a good place right now — games like this, where he’s a legit two-way contributor are currently his normal. There are still some record scratches — he had one turnovers against Memphis where he drove and forced a pass instead of taking a corner three-pointer — but they are happening far less often than they were.
And, to boot, Okoro is shooting 36% from three and 38% on corner three-pointers, per Cleaning The Glass, after he missed his first 12 of the season. That’s a very good sign.
Evan Mobley, good lord
This guy is just ridiculous. This was an elite defensive performance.
Kevin Love watch begins, if it hadn’t already
Worth watching: Love did not play a minute of the second half after playing nine in the first half. He was 1-5 from three in those minutes and, since he hurt injured his thumb, Love is shooting 29% from three, including 28% on non-corner three-pointers and 35% on corner threes.
Love isn’t near his best right now. He might not be fully healthy either — comments to cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor only further that. It might be time to rest for him and get him healthy.
Up next: The Cavs start a back-to-back with a game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.