The Cleveland Cavaliers were fortunate to again play a team without their star players as the Milwaukee Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Unlike last night against the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs never took their foot off the gas leading to a 114-102 victory.
Three-point shooting is still an issue.
The Cavs’ three-point defense has been a topic of conversation the last few weeks and rightfully so. The Warriors ran the Cavs off the court on Friday by consistently generating and hitting open looks.
The Bucks have been exploiting this weakness all season. In their previous three matchups, Milwaukee shot 43.6% from deep on 33.7 attempts per game against Cleveland.
They were able to generate clean looks by having shooters camp out in the corners and by using their bigs in simple pick-and-pops. Bobby Portis made a habit of getting open looks, like the one below, by setting a screen and staying put at the top of the key. Jarrett Allen goes to help stop the ball handler, there’s no rotation and Portis is able to get a clean look.
Portis canned 5-8 triples as the Bucks connected on 14 of their 39 (35.9%) looks from beyond the arc. The Cavs, who were outscored from three by 27 against the Warriors, lost the three-point battle by 21 again tonight. Cleveland hit just 7 threes and, more troublingly, only attempted 22.
The Cavs played a good game overall despite giving up some quality outside looks to the Bucks. The margin for error is however so small when you’re being consistently outscored from three.
Mobley is showing his potential.
Mobley showed us why the organization believes in him as much as they do. He was the unquestioned best player on both ends leading the Cavs to a win they desperately needed. He finished with a career-high 38 points on 19-27 shooting with 9 boards and 3 assists.
The most impressive part of the game was the numerous ways he found ways to score. He relentlessly attacked Brook Lopez and company off-the-dribble, rolling to the basket and cutting to the rim off-ball. The second-year big was aggressive and decisive, but in control throughout as he methodically carved up the defense.
Mobley’s lack of improvement with his outside shot has covered up how much better around the rim he’s been in his second season. Mobley has attempted a higher percentage of shots this season inside (45.6% to 52.6%) while completing 77% of his looks at the rim compared with 72.5% in his rookie season. Tonight, he was unstoppable in the paint as he finished 11 of his 14 attempts in the restricted area.
Mobley is still finding his place in the NBA at 21-years old. Figuring out how to best use his unique, but sometimes overlapping, talents hasn’t been a linear path. However, nights like this show how special he can become. He’s truly one of one.
It’s great to see Anderson Varejão back with the team.
Varejão will always be a fan favorite in Cleveland. This city embraces players who bring that kind of effort and enthusiasm into every game they play. He was a big reason why those first-era LeBron James teams were as special as they were.
From Daniel “Booby” Gibson getting a spot on the coaching staff of the Cleveland Charge to J.R. Smith being given the spotlight for the homecoming he received in December, the Cavs have continually gone out of their way to pay respect to those who made this organization what it is today. These are things current players notice and appreciate.
Darius Garland also shared with me how he felt watching the #Cavs honor Anderson Varejao tonight and how he hopes to have a similar situation with the team one day, along with his jersey hanging in the rafters. pic.twitter.com/OxZkwM28j2— Evan Dammarell (@AmNotEvan) January 22, 2023
The Cavs got key contributions for the whole team.
A performance like Mobley’s overshadows how well rounded of a game the Cavs played aside from their outside-shooting disadvantage. The Cavs dominated the battle in the paint 66-44, they kept the pace slow limiting the Bucks to 3 fast-break points, limited second-chance opportunities by allowing only 7 offensive rebounds and kept the Bucks from getting to the line.
Darius Garland once again had a stellar night as he finished with an efficient 21 points on 9-16 shooting with 10 assists and a turnover. Cedi Osman had his second straight productive night off the bench as he contributed 13 points on 4-7 shooting with 3 assists. Caris LeVert was a good secondary playmaker as he provided 7 assists to along with 13 points.
The Cavs did what they needed to do. They took advantage of a team without their two best players and closed out a somewhat stress-free win.
Up next: The Cavs will have a few days off before heading back on the road Tuesday to take on the New York Knicks. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.