The Cleveland Cavaliers fought hard, but their offense stalled late as they were only able to muster 18 fourth-quarter points. The Denver Nuggets leave town with a 115-109 victory.
Evan Mobley is an alien.
Mobley continues to do things that normal humans can’t. Tonight, he contested a Jamal Murray layup on either side of the rim before blocking the reverse attempt.
Mobley was ready to block Murray on either side of the rim. pic.twitter.com/z68BKYUVRI— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 24, 2023
Mobley’s ability to jump without seemingly any load time allows him to not commit until the last second. This, combined with uncanny patience for a 21-year old big, results in blocks like this without getting into foul trouble very often (3.3% foul rate).
Mobley showed a glimpse of the offensive player he could become in the first and third quarters.
Sticking with the theme of the night, Mobley was fantastic on the other end as well. This was especially true in the first quarter when the offense seemed stuck in the mud. Jarrett Allen picked up two quick fouls in the opening frame which meant Mobley had to take the primary assignment of Nikola Jokić without much off-ball rim protection. The second-year big more than handled his own while singlehandedly carrying the offense.
Mobley provided 14 of the team’s 26 first-quarter points. He went 6-7 from the field which included hitting 1-2 from beyond the arc.
The guards did an excellent job of forcing Denver to switch allowing for mismatches for Mobley in the post. Below is a good example of how he was able to do this after Donovan Mitchell sets a screen with conviction to force the mismatch.
Evan Mobley backed Jamal Murray down from the 3-point line, then finished with a hook shot that looked like it belonged in a 1986 issue of Sports Illustrated. https://t.co/vwFvFy0VZU pic.twitter.com/r7XQnHIKmK— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) February 24, 2023
Mobley kept his foot on the gas in the third as well as he put up 15 points on 5-9 shooting while going 1-2 from deep. He finished the game with a game-high 31 points on 12-19 shooting with 9 rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block. He was the best player on the Cavs this evening and was the best overall player on the floor for stretches while guarding the reigning MVP.
The Cavs’ made life difficult for Nikola Jokić.
Having two All-Defense caliber bigs makes it a little easier for the Cavs to guard the back-to-back MVP. While the bigs deserve the lion’s share of the credit, the guards — specifically Mitchell — were able to provide timely doubles to throw his timing off.
Mitchell was able to rack up 4 steals by primarily doubling and getting steals in the post or by showing double and recovering out to his man before the pass could get there. The Cavs ended the night with 10 steals. Many of which were a result of Jokić’s 7 turnovers.
Fun stuff here you see the call for Mobley to switch on to Murray and get Mitchell out of the action. Denver responds by just putting Garland in P&R but good show/recover and Cavs able to switch. Nice stunt/recover from Mitchell vs. Jokic pic.twitter.com/Tz7OKARLPw— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) February 24, 2023
Jokić still ended the game with 24 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. That’s about the best you can do against a guy going through one of the best offensive stretches in NBA history. You can’t stop Jokić, you just need to somewhat contain him. The Cavs were able to do that and give themselves a chance to win by getting complete buy-in from every player on the floor.
The Cavs didn’t make life difficult for Nikola Jokić’s teammates.
Sending double teams has a cost. Nuggets not named Jokić were able to get open looks seemingly every possession down the stretch. Denver connected on 17-36 (47.2%) from beyond the arc on the game which included 25 big points from Michael Porter, Jr.
You have pick your poison with a team like the Nuggets. The Cavs forced guys not named Jokić to beat them, and they did.
The Cavs don’t have many three-point options.
Cleveland put up a good 119.8 offensive rating this game despite shooting an abysmal 6-23 (23.1%) from distance. The Cavs were able to dominate in the paint (68-38) while finishing 77.8% of their looks at the rim. That said, you have to play a perfect game when you aren’t hitting outside shots and teams are leaving non-shooters.
Mitchell and Darius Garland are exceptional three-point shooters, but this team doesn’t really have anyone else to turn to when their shots aren’t falling. The duo combined to go just 3-13 from distance which has the ability to really hinder the rest of the offense.
Mobley, Garland, Mitchell and Cedi Osman were the only Cavaliers to get a shot from distance to fall. The rest of the team combined for just 3 outside attempts. That simply isn’t going to get it done most night’s in today’s NBA.
This has been an issue all season, but feels more glaring now that the hope of Kevin Love getting healthy and being the contributor he was at the beginning of the season is officially off the table. Danny Green was available to play, but didn’t get the call off the exercise bike he was using to stay warm. This left a bench rotation consisting of Dean Wade, who didn’t attempt a three, Caris Levert, Lamar Stevens and Osman who went 1-6. That just isn’t enough shooting options for a team already playing three non-shooters in the starting lineup.
Maybe it’s unreasonable to expect anything from Green this season. He didn’t look good against the Philadelphia 76ers last week and is only 9 months removed from an ACL tear. That said, it would be nice if the Cavs at least had someone off the bench defenses have to somewhat respect as a shooter besides Osman.
The Cavs outscored Denver by 30 points in the paint, but were outscored by 33 from distance. It doesn’t matter how you get your points in the league, just that you get more than the other team. That, unfortunately for the Cavs, is a tough task when your offense turns one dimensional like it was tonight.
Up next: The Cavs will look to get the bad taste out of their mouth as they travel to The Peach State to take on the Atlanta Hawks Friday night. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.