It was an up-and-down week for the Cleveland Cavaliers who played all three games without Donovan Mitchell. They had one of their best showings of the season as they lost to a red-hot Memphis Grizzlies team by one. They followed that up with their worst loss of the year against a short-handed Golden State Warriors team before defeating the Giannis-less Milwaukee Bucks.
Here’s what we learned from the three-game rollercoaster.
The Cavs are losing the three-point battle.
The Cavs have ran into some hot shooting teams this week and over the last month. Overall, opponents are hitting 42% of their three-pointers against the Cavs over the last 15 games. How much of this is bad luck or not can be debated. What isn’t up for debate is how much the Cavs are losing the three-point battle.
The offense hasn’t done a good job of generating three-point looks without Mitchell this season. Mitchell has been excellent at taking and making off-the-dribble threes (42.7% on 5.9 attempts per game). This has resulted in him taking 9.4 threes per game which has helped keep the offense on pace.
With Mitchell on the floor, 35.7% of the Cavs’ shot attempts are threes which is in the 59th percentile for outside attempts. Conversely, when he’s off only 31.2% of their shots come from distance which is in the 15th percentile.
The Cavs shot a good percentage from deep in the three games this week as they connected on 41.1% of their threes. However, not getting a high volume of attempts up coupled with hot outside shooting from the opposition is a recipe for disaster.
The Cavs won the three-point battle against the Grizzlies, but were outscored by 27 and 21 points from three by the Warriors and Bucks. It’s difficult to stay competitive and win games when there’s that big of a disparity between made and given up threes per game.
Darius Garland is playing like an All-Star.
Garland has made a strong late push for a spot in Utah. Over his last four games Garland is averaging 26.5 points on .438/.400/.833 shooting splits with 11 assists and 2.3 turnovers a game.
His outing against the Grizzlies was one of the most impressive games we’ve seen from him. He was aggressive in looking for his shot from three, while being in complete control of the offense. He finished that outing with 27 points on 7-17 shooting with 14 assists while being a team high +10 in the nearly 39 minutes he played.
Garland has been forced to take on a different role this season with the addition of Mitchell. This has caused a dip in overall usage from last season to this. This week served as a nice reminder of how good and effective he can be as the primary option.
Evan Mobley continues to show how good he could become.
Mobley was outstanding in his three games this week. His career-high 38-point outing against the Bucks was his most complete offensive showing since being in the league. He did an excellent job of showcasing his IQ and touch around the basket as he found numerous ways to finish inside as he was 11-14 in the restricted area.
While Bucks’ game was more noteworthy, the Memphis one on Wednesday might’ve been more impressive. Mobley’s anticipation and instincts for the game on the defensive end are nearly unheard of for someone his age. Combined with his athleticism, he can be a force to be reckoned with.
This play was a perfect summation of Mobley’s performance in Memphis. His assignment Brandon Clarke sets consecutive screens, first on Raul Neto and second on Caris LeVert. Mobley recognizes both and then anticipates where the ball is going to end up. He stays on Clarke when he drives to the basket, doesn’t bite on the pump fake and finds a way to block the shot even though he jumps after Clarke.
Memphis corrals the rebound. Desmond Bane catches the guards out of position and seems to have a clear path to the basket. Mobley fights over a box out from Clarke and finds a way to alter the shot at the rim.
It’s been a weird year for Mobley from a statistical standpoint. He hasn’t taken a drastic leap as an outside shooter many were hoping for and the impact stats have been disappointing, although that could mostly be noise from opponent’s outside shooting. Mobley has however continually found ways to impact the game on the defensive end in tangible and meaningful ways.
Growth isn’t always linear. There will be ups and downs in Mobley’s progression like there is with any young player. Outings like the ones he’s had this week show why there’s reason to believe he hasn’t scratched the surface yet on his potential.