It wasn’t pretty, but the Cleveland Cavaliers got it done. In a 90-88 win, the Cavs beat the Phoenix Suns after a 33-point first half. (More on that below.) But a better second half and some late game heroics from Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley was enough. The win gets the Cavs to 25-14 on the season.
A bad, bad offensive first half
There’s no other way to say it: the Cavaliers’ were really, really bad on offense in the first half. They managed 33 points on 11-38 shooting, including 3-19 from three. They missed their first 14 three-point attempts. Donovan Mitchell, coming off his 71-point performance, was 3-11 from the field. Jarrett Allen had zero points and only took one shot. Nothing worked.
It’s hard to narrow down why this happened exactly. The Suns played good defense, sure, but the Cavs also just looked off. They missed some shots you’d expect they’d make. Maybe it was just an off half not far removed from the emotional high of Mitchell’s historic night.
Positive minutes from LeVert and Neto
The big moments ultimately were made by Mitchell — he showed up when it mattered most. But the Cavs only got to that part of the game in large part because of strong play Caris LeVert and Raul Neto.
LeVert, starting with Darius Garland still out with a hand injury, played a team-high 37 minutes in the win. He finished 7-11 from the field, including 5-7 from three, en route to 21 points. LeVert looked confident, making the catch-and-shoot looks that came his way.
The Cavs missed their first 14 three-pointers. To win, they needed LeVert to have the hot night he did.
As for Neto, he put in a strong 20-minute shift. He was 5-7 from the field (and probably had 2-3 more shots available to him if he wanted them) and grinded on defense against Chris Paul. He defended full court and picked up a steal and a block for all of his effort. It was the exact 20 minutes they needed from Neto in a rare extended stint from him.
Mobley, showing up at the end
This was not a grand return from injury for Evan Mobley. He had 6 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes. He finished 2-9 from the field and had four turnovers. This wasn’t the polished Mobley that he’s often been.
And then he did this.
Mitchell, after penetrating the lane, found Mobley looping back around towards the ball in the middle of the floor. This was an interesting play design — Mobley is stationed in the corner behind of Allen, so it seems like the Suns just lost him as they focused on Mitchell and Allen in the dunker spot. So when he fills back into the lane, he’s got all the space in the world to gather, pull-up and stick the game-winning jumper.
That’s Mobley’s first career game-winner. It was a big moment for him — one he looked comfortable in — on a night where he wasn’t at his best.
Up next: The Cavs begin a road trip on Friday when they play against the Denver Nuggets. TIpoff for that game is at 9 p.m. EST.