Cleveland Charge defeated the Lakeland Magic 102-101 thanks to four last-minute baskets from Sharife Cooper.
Unlike their meeting last night, the Charge were the ones who came out strong in the opening frame taking a ten point lead. The Magic fought back to tie things up at the half after winning the second quarter 36-26. The second half was back and forth throughout with neither team able to create much separation.
Lakeside grabbed a three-point advantage with 52 seconds left after a three from Caleb Houstan. Cooper responded with a layup on the next possession to make it a one-point game. The Charge got the ball back down one after two missed free-throws from Zavier Simpson. Cooper responded with another layup to give the Charge the lead with 15 seconds remaining. Isaiah Mobley sealed the game on the defensive end with a block on a Simpson floater at the end of regulation on the next possession.
“I saw the lane open,” said Cooper when asked about his game winner afterwards. “The man in the corner didn’t help, I knew he was gonna trail me so I tried to slow step it a little bit and thankfully it went in.”
“He’s been our Mr. Fourth Quarter,” said Charge head coach Mike Gerrity about Cooper. “He made big plays for us when we needed it and I today down the stretch he kept his composure.”
Cooper played one of his most well-rounded games of the season. After a sloppy performance Friday night where he coughed it up 5 times with only 6 assists, Cooper responded with a 7 assist, 2 turnover night. The difference was controlling the aggressive and unforced turnovers.
“We had the conversation before the game about unforced turnovers versus turnovers when being aggressive,” said Gerrity. “Those [turnovers from being aggressive] are the ones that we can live with. The unforced ones are the ones we try to avoid.”
“Little unforced errors build up my turnovers,” said Cooper when asked about the difference between Friday night and tonight. “We watched film of last game before this game. So I definitely saw a lot ways I can limit those turnovers by not taking certain routes or not taking positions where it’s a lot of traffic. I tried to be a little smarter and it worked out today. I still want to take both of those two [turnovers] down, so it’s a work in progress, but I’m heading in the right direction.”
Cooper finished the evening with 22 points on 8-13 shooting with 7 assists.
Mobley’s block was the other highlight of the night. Gerrity emphasized afterwards that many things went right for the Charge on that final possession leading to Mobley’s block.
“It’s a lot of things we’ve been preaching which come from the Cavaliers and J.B. [Bickerstaff],” said Gerrity. “Those core values that we really hang our hat on. That last possession, the way the guys recovered for one another, the scrambling and competing. There were about five or six things that happened in that sequence where one guy was covering for the next.”
The elder Mobley had one of his best offensive games as he finished the night with a game-high 24 points on 8-11 shooting. That included going 2-4 from distance which is something his coach is particularly proud of.
“I’ve really loved how he’s been able to stretch the floor,” said Gerrity. “He was 2-4 tonight, made two last night. He just looks extremely confident. The shot looks good. Every time it leaves his hands it feels like they’re going in. He’s stepping into it with a lot of confidence. He puts a lot of work that and that’s something that he’s going to have to be able to do for the Cavs.”
Dylan Windler also saw action for the second time in as many nights. He provided 5 points in 18 and a half minutes off the bench while going 2-5 from the field and 1-4 from deep. Four of his five field goal attempts came from corner three-point attempts or cuts from the baseline corner.
Mamadi Diakite provided a sturdy back-line of the defense while providing 16 points on 6-11 shooting with 6 assists and 2 blocks. Diakite struggled with some unforced turnovers of his own as he had 5 tonight.
Up next: The Charge are heading to the west coast next week. They take on the Stockton Kings on Feb. 28. Tip-off is 2 p.m.