Jarrett Allen. It was a largely forgettable game for Allen against Orlando (quite literally, as he was in foul trouble and eventually fouled out), but the big man came back and put together a good game against the Celtics. He finished the game with a modest line of 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but he added three steals and two blocks. Allen held Kristaps Porzingis to just 5-16 shooting, continuing to play stout defense and defending him in space. Without Mobley, Allen was asked to do a lot more defensively and be a true anchor against one of the best offenses in the league.
It was not a perfect game for Allen though, as he continues to have inexplicably poor hands in terms of handling passes and getting rebounds. But overall he showed the things that make him one of the better centers in the league in terms of being a smart passer, efficient shot-taker, and a plus defender.
He also threw down a poster over Porzingis, that was cool.
Cavs Halfcourt Offense. Against a stout Celtics defense, the Cavs' halfcourt offense managed 104.2 points per 100 plays according to Cleaning the Glass. That is significantly better than the 94.6 points per 100 plays they have averaged all season (23rd in the NBA), and hopefully a sign of things to come as the Cavs look to get that side of the ball back on track. For reference, the Cavs were 10th in the league last season in points per 100 plays.
Darius Garland’s aggressiveness. As one of the two keys on offense, getting Garland going on offense and taking shots is paramount to the Cavs’ success. Too often he has seemed passive, but the last two games have been better. Garland has back-to-back games in which he attempted 23 shots, scoring 36 and 26 points in those contests. That is just the fourth time that Garland has attempted 20 or more shots in a game, with three of those coming in the last five games.
More importantly, Garland is taking more threes as of late. This latest two-game stretch against Orlando and Boston has featured 17 three-point attempts, which is the most in any two-game stretch this season. Garland is one of the best pure shooters on the team, so this is a good development. But it needs to be more consistent before a true “stock up” trend.
Craig Porter Jr. remains in limbo. One of the better stories on the Cavs this year has been the emergence of “CPJ” as a viable rotation piece. Asking him to go into a big matchup versus Boston and be the primary backup point guard is a tall ask, especially for a rookie, but the yo-yo-ing of his minutes is not doing any favors either. CPJ now has two straight DNP-CDs, and his minutes have started to be more sporadic. With the return of Caris LeVert against the Celtics, it would be more difficult to find CPJ court time. But Porter just finds ways to make good plays, bringing energy to the rotation that is not replicable.
Having Porter Jr. out there with one of Garland or Mitchell makes some sense. In each case, Porter could allow the star guard to be an off-ball threat and either get downhill or run around a series of screens to get an open three-ball. Porter is a pretty reserved player, not making rash decisions or turning the ball over in high volume (especially for a rookie).
Evan Mobley’s Knee. For the third straight game, Mobley was unable to get on the court due to knee soreness. While there is never a good time to lose one of your best players, the Cavs sorely miss Mobley’s ability to be a roving defender anywhere on the court, rebounder, and passer from the elbow. Especially now, during a tough stretch against playoff-caliber competition, not having Mobley makes the Cavs’ margin for error even thinner.