Isaac Okoro had another solid outing.
The Cavs seem unbeatable when they get good production from their fifth starter. They got that once again this evening as Okoro finished with 20 points on 7-9 shooting with 3 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals.
This is what a good Okoro game looks like. He played strong point-of-attack defense while also knocking down corner threes and aggressively attacking the basket when given the opportunity. Plays like the one below typify that.
Okoro is likely always going to ignored by defenses to some degree in the half court if he’s sharing the floor with offensive stars like Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. The simplest counter is to aggressively attack the basket or shoot when the ball swings your way. Okoro has been doing that tremendously well of late.
Reliable production from the bench.
J.B. Bickerstaff elected to go with an eight-man rotation with Caris LeVert out of the lineup. The trio of Ricky Rubio, Dean Wade and Cedi Osman provided solid contributions on both ends allowing the Cavs to extend the lead when they were on the floor.
Rubio continues to look more like his old self. He built on his strong outing against the Memphis Grizzlies by putting up 7 points, 9 assists and just 1 turnover in the 20 minutes he played tonight. Wade only attempted 4 shots but didn’t hesitate to take those shots as he filled the stat sheet with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. Osman didn’t have his shot going as he went 3-12 from the field, but his activity allowed him to remain a net positive overall.
The bench has been a point of concern all season. Adding Rubio and Wade into that group has provided stability and structure they haven’t otherwise been able to capture. That was on display Sunday evening.
The bigs controlled the paint.
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley had their standard good game in Indianapolis. Allen contributed 18 points and 13 boards on 9-11 shooting while Mobley totaled 17 and 10 on 7-12 shooting. More impressively though, they played Bickerstaff’s version of Cavalier basketball on the defensive end.
The Cavs have had trouble controlling the Pacers’ three-point shooting in past meetings. Indiana torched the Cavs from deep in their two previous meetings as they hit 44.8% of their 33.5 threes against them. That changed on Sunday as they were held to 8-32 (25%) shooting from distance.
The Cavs got back to their roots. They ran their opponent off the three-point line, forced them to go to the basket and contested their shots without fouling at the rim. Only 33% of the Pacers’ attempts on Sunday came from three (37th percentile) while 46% of the shots came at the rim (95th percentile). But, the Cavs held them to a remarkable 48.6% on their attempts at the rim (4th percentile for offenses) thanks to the incredible interior defense of Allen and Mobley.
This is what good Cavalier, defensive basketball looks like.
Darius Garland remains in complete command.
Garland has been putting on a masterclass of late. Tonight was no exception as he was able to carve up the defense on and off-ball with ease. He finished the night with an effortless 24 points on 8-13 shooting with 6 assists and 1 turnover.
The most impressive part of Garland’s recent play is his ability to transform into whatever the offense needs on a given night. Thursday, the Cavs needed him to be the heliocentric engine that led them to a much needed win. Tonight, he allowed Mitchell to try and break out of his recent slump and fed the bigs repeatedly inside.
Garland didn’t end up with the most points or assists. But he was unquestionably the best player on the floor. He’s making games like this a habit. That’s especially key with Mitchell not currently playing at his best.
The Cavs didn’t play with their food.
Not treating lesser competition with the respect they should has cost the Cavs this past month. Recently, they had a double-digit lead heading into the half against the Oklahoma City Thunder before allowing the young team to comeback and steal the game.
The Cavs didn’t do that here against another young and over-achieving team. Cleveland closed the second quarter on an extended 26-9 run over the last seven minutes leading to nab a 16-point advantage at the break. The Cavs promptly came out of the half with a quick 11-4 to grab a 23-point lead which they never looked back from.
Being able to put away an opponent easily on the first leg of a back-to-back is important. We’ll see if the Cavs can come out with a similar level of energy tomorrow night.
Up next: The Cavs head to the nation’s capital as they take on the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.