It’s always a fun time for the fans when LeBron James comes back to the North Coast to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. As for the Cavs players themselves, it appears less fun. James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are battling injuries of their own, came into Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and beat Cleveland 121-115. The loss sends the Cavs back to .500 and 8-8 on the season.
Health remains an issue
While it was nice to have Donovan Mitchell and Isaac Okoro back from injury, Darius Garland was ruled doubtful to return after halftime due to a neck strain and Mitchell looked gimpy late in the fourth quarter. J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game that Mitchell and Okoro would be on some sort of minutes restriction, but with Garland’s injury, more pressure was put on the former to carry the heavy lifting on offense. Unfortunately, that may have caused the injury to flair back up.
Mitchell played like a guy who missed several games and then returned to face a top-ten defense: rusty. He finished 4/18 from the floor, missing a few key buckets late, but he did get to the free-throw line 13 times. Okoro played 18 minutes and scored five points to go along with three rebounds. There were definitely some cobwebs that needed shaking off.
Craig Porter Jr. craze is ongoing
Oh, you thought CPJ was going to come back to earth with Mitchell and Okoro healthy? Think again. The rookie guard had 11 points in 16 minutes of action on 5-7 shooting, including an insane 2K-esque spinning turnaround three:
CPJ was, once again, solid when he was on the floor. He absorbed contact and finished well at the rim, stabilized the offense, and played hard on defense. That being said, the Cavs seemed to let him dictate the offense with Mitchell playing off-ball in situations where Mitchell should be the one running sets. CPJ has so far been a hidden gem, but the Cavs need to stay the course on offense with their fulcrums.
The bigs are still playing well
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are still playing good basketball on both sides of the ball. Yeah, Anthony Davis’ 32 points were the difference, but he will get his on anyone when he is at his best. The dynamic frontcourt duo continues to be crucial to the Cavs’ success and they kept them in this game. Tonight, they combined for 39 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists, seven steals, and three blocks.
Allen, in particular, is playing very well of late. He had an emphatic block and continues to be highlight-efficient on offense while being a stout rim protector. The big-to-big passing with Mobley continues to be very fun, and he had another incredible pass through Davis and Austin Reaves:
Not sure how Jarrett Allen managed to thread this pass between Reaves and AD pic.twitter.com/5amjahVlsw— AlexHoops (@AlexHoops_) November 26, 2023
Mobley had a tough task guarding Davis, but he finished with 18 points, six rebounds, and six assists to go along with four steals. He did have a few bad turnovers in the second half when he tried to put the ball on the deck, which does need to be figured out in some capacity, but the third-year power forward continues to play solid basketball. The evolution of his offense will continue to be monitored throughout the season.
The Cavs have a quick turnaround as they host the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. The statuses of Mitchell and Garland will be worth monitoring heading into the second game of the back-to-back. Tipoff is at 7:30 pm at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.