The Cleveland Cavaliers picked up a big win on Thursday night, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 128-113 behind a 30-point, 11-assist night from Darius Garland.
Darius Garland at his best
On the day he wasn’t named a 2023 NBA All-Star, Darius Garland sure played like one.
Garland finished with 30 points on 11-19 shooting and 11 assists and was the best player on the floor. When he drove, he got to where he wanted, bending the defense his way before he slipped in a pass. His shot making was on-point too — he was 4-6 from three, including a number of pull-ups. This was Garland at his best — aggressive, making shots, dictating the pace of the game.
“I thought he was brilliant,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said post game.
Garland, head-to-head with 2019 draft class mate and Grizzlies star Ja Morant, came out on top. And on a night where Donovan Mitchell was ejected and didn’t play that well (he finished with 6 points on 2-11 shooting), Garland filled that void and then some. It’s the kind of game that is a reminder that, even if he wasn’t named an All-Star, he’s an All-Star level player.
If you somehow didn’t see it, the flashbulb moment of the night was Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks striking Mitchell below the belt and Mitchell then throwing the ball at Brooks. The two then went at it before being seperated. Brooks was ejected for a Flagrant 2 — and likely putting himself into Kelly Olynyk/Draymond Green heel territory with Cavs fans going forward. Mitchell was ejected too for throwing the ball at Brooks.
This moment elevated the energy of the game up a level. The crowd, understandably, got into the game more after that. On court, it appeared tensions remained frosty. Later in the game, Cavs wing Cedi Osman and Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane jawed at one another with Bane getting a technical.
This game had a playoff feel. It had a playoff chippiness to it. That’s a good experience for a Cleveland team still growing up.
Post game, Mitchell spoke to the media and was clearly annoyed with Brooks, calling the play “bullshit” and noting that Brooks has a record of this kind of play and that he’s been “busting his ass for years.”
“That’s just who he is,” Mitchell said.
Aside from Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen were at the center of much of Cleveland’s success on Thursday. (Credit to Cedi Osman and Isaac Okoro too, for what it’s worth.) They both feasted with Jaren Jackson Jr. out for Memphis.
Mobley finished with 17 points on 7-17 shooting, plus 14 rebounds and 5 rebounds. He was active everywhere on the floor on offense and was better than the 7-17 number indicates. (There were two bad drives and two missed three-pointers that made his night look less efficient than it felt.) On defense, he was his dominant self — handling switches, defending at the rim, eating up space. This was a great Mobley game.
As for Allen, he was a hammer at the rim and finished 9-12 from the field for 18 points and 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. He was the recipient of several Garland dimes, sliding back into space after Garland pulled the defense towards him on the drive. There was little resistance from Memphis once Allen got the ball near the rim.
Up next: The Cavs are off until Sunday when they travel to Indiana to face the Pacers. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.