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Cleveland Cavaliers beat Brooklyn Nets 114-113 in season opener

Cavs win a thriller to start the season 1-0.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers wasted no time raising everyone’s blood pressure with a down-to-the-wire 114-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on opening night.

Nightly Notables

It was a slow start for Donovan Mitchell but his late-game heroics stole the show. He scored 10 of Cleveland’s last 12 points, including the go-ahead bucket. Mitchell finished with 27 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals.

Max Strus set a franchise record for most three-pointers in a Cavs debut, shooting 7-13 from downtown for 27 points and 12 rebounds. Getting Strus in a sign-and-trade was Cleveland’s crown achievement in the offseason and it is easy to see why. His dynamite three-point shooting made an instant impact.

Isaac Okoro also had a strong night. His two-way presence was much-needed, jamming up Mikal Bridges down the stretch while piling up 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

For Brooklyn, it was the Cam Thomas show. He erupted for 24 points in the first half, ending the game with 36 points on 13-21 shooting.

Keys to Victory: Grit and Grind meets Space and Pace

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff had plans to revamp the Cavaliers’ offense this season. So far, he has made good on that promise. Cleveland attempted 43 three-pointers, 12 more than their average from a year ago. The offense was fast, loose and downright deadly at various points in this game.

Still, the Cavs won this game in the final minutes behind an otherworldly defensive stretch. Strus regained momentum with a block and score in transition while Mitchell tied the game by swiping the ball and going coast-to-coast for a dunk. In the end, it was Cleveland’s grit that stole the game away from Brooklyn.

Coming up short: Brooklyn’s offense

The Nets enjoyed a sporadic performance from Cam Thomas but lacked offensive support elsewhere. Mikal Bridges had a quiet 20 points while Ben Simmons and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for just 9 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Nic Claxton had 7 points on 3-10 shooting.

Brooklyn won the rebounding battle 50-38, normally a strong indicator of victory. But the Nets were buried from behind the three-point line, making just nine threes to Cleveland’s 17. Their offense ground to a halt in the closing minutes and opened the door for the Cavaliers’ comeback.

Well, that happened…

The NBA has implemented a “flop rule” this season in order to cut back on player theatrics. And, well, Darius Garland gave Cavs fans their first look at it.

Midway through the second quarter, Garland hit the deck while navigating a screen and was served with a technical foul after the possession. Garland’s sprawling tumble was deemed exaggerated and resulted in a free throw for the Nets.

Reactions to the flop rule have been mixed. Personally, I find it silly and I’m not convinced this is a thing worth asking officials to track in live-time. Nonetheless, look forward to seeing more of this as the season goes on.

The Big Picture

It might have been ugly at times but it’s a game the Cavs will gladly add to their win column. They clearly missed Jarrett Allen’s interior presence, particularly on defense, and it is unclear when he will return from an ankle injury.

Up next, a back-to-back against Indiana and Oklahoma City will provide an early challenge for the Cavs as they look to stay perfect for as long as possible.