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Cleveland Cavaliers show growth in season sweep of Golden State Warriors

The Cavs once again flashed their potential.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers captured their first win in Golden State since Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Yes, you read that right. Let’s dive into three takeaways from the game.

Cavs bounced back as a team

If you watched the Cavaliers' previous game in Oklahoma City, you know the start to their West Coast trip was ugly. They fell flat against the Thunder, turning the ball over 20 times and conceding 43 points to Shai Gilgeous-Alexader. With a lackluster performance like that, entering Chase Arena just a few days later could have spelled trouble for the Cavs.

But the Cavs showed a different level of focus versus the Warriors. They were locked in from the jump, storming to an early lead and holding onto it for most of the game. Their collective effort on defense set the tone. Rather than committing turnovers of their own, the Cavaliers forced 20 turnovers to spearhead another inspiring victory over the Warriors. Cleveland swept the season series with Golden State for the first time since 2010.

This game was not won on the back of Donovan Mitchell’s scoring. He posted just 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting. Instead, it was an all-around team effort that propelled the Cavaliers with five different players scoring 16+ points. Mitchell himself contributed elsewhere with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, a block, and a well-deserved shove to Draymond Green.

It has been a back-and-forth start for Cleveland. Their last triumphant victory (also against Golden State) was met by instant disappointment in OKC. Inconsistencies like this are common during the early stages of the season. Hopefully, we start to see more games akin to this one moving forward.

Caris LeVert is building his Sixth Man of the Year case

Caris LeVert led the team in scoring with 22 points and delivered quality effort on both sides of the ball. His perimeter defense has set the tone in each of Cleveland’s wins over Golden State. He was crowned “Junkyard Dog” in their previous victory and racked up four steals in their most recent venture.

LeVert put Klay Thompson in a straight jacket on this possession and would finish the first half with 14 points. Gritty defense and timely scoring have been LeVert’s calling card through nine games. He finished the Warriors’ game as a +23 in 36 minutes.

This continues a strong start to the season for LeVert. He’s averaging 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists off the bench. His two-way presence has helped steer the ship through muddy waters as LeVert has been one of the most reliable members of the team each night.

Max Strus and the core four

Acquiring Max Strus was Cleveland’s big swing of the offseason. The goal was for Strus to slot into the starting lineup and unlock everything with his three-point shooting. So far so good.

The Cavs starting five has a net rating of 7.4 in their 47 minutes together this season. A small sample size but an encouraging one. Strus has provided them with the space needed to operate. He’s a streaky shooter but is respected by the defense even when his shot isn’t falling. This, combined with his ability to use his gravity as a tool to open opportunities for Cleveland’s bigs, has made Strus a wonderful addition.

Strus is quickly developing chemistry with both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. This play showcases the versatility Strus brings to the Cavs’ offense.

Right now, Strus is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Of course, he’s also playing more minutes than ever – but this start to the season is everything you could have asked for.

As for the rest of the starting lineup, the wheels are just starting to turn. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen are ramping themselves back up after returning from injury just a week ago. Donovan Mitchell’s electric scoring carried the Cavs through those early injuries and he has since displayed some tenacity on the defensive end. This is a trend we should all hope continues. The less offensive burden Mitchell has to carry, the more he can assert himself defensively.

Then, there is Evan Mobley. Of all the slow starts in Cleveland, Mobley’s early struggles drew the most ire. The third-season explosion hasn’t happened. But Mobley is steadily building toward career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He’s comfortably sliding back into his natural role alongside Allen and the other starters.

All-in-all, the Cavs' win over Golden State was a reassuring one. And the team appears to be trending in the right direction, even if more highs and lows are likely on the horizon.