It was not pretty, and oftentimes frustrating, but the Cleveland Cavaliers survived a scare and erased a 16-point deficit to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 to win the first game of a back-to-back. Darius Garland led the way with 28 points, while Donovan Mitchell added 23 points.
The Absence of Jarrett Allen
The Cavs were without center Jarrett Allen due to a facial injury he suffered last game against the Miami Heat, and his presence (or lack thereof) was certainly felt. Evan Mobley played center in Allen’s place and got into foul issues early, had a weird offensive game where he shot 2-8 in the first half, and oddly had trouble with Hornets backup Nick Richards. It was not until the fourth quarter that Mobley turned it on.
EV4 CLEANS IT UP! @evanmobley | #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/T6fpq4T9an— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 12, 2023
Robin Lopez made an appearance as well as the backup center, but thankfully that experiment was short-lived. He played eight minutes and had two blocks, but certainly did not look like a viable option against the springier Hornets. Given the situation the Cavs were in, Dean Wade would have made some sense as a small-ball five instead of the lumbering Lopez.
Lamar Stevens filled in as a starter and played admirably, including this corner three-pointer off a nice pass from Mobley, though it was evident that the rim protection suffered. Charlotte finished with 52 points in the paint.
MARRR!!!— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 12, 2023
#CavsHornets on @BallySportsCLE pic.twitter.com/pPIQfdOaSD
Charlotte was on the second game of a back-to-back, but you would not have guessed that given the energy levels of both teams. The Hornets blitzed the Cavs and forced them into an up-tempo game. Cleveland is 30th in the NBA in pace, and it sure looked like it coupled with the sluggishness already displayed. Charlotte had 18 fastbreak points in the first half to Cleveland’s zero.
What a DIME @T_Rozzay3 x @Dennis1SmithJr | @HornetsOnBally pic.twitter.com/1AvIkibeif— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 12, 2023
Scary Terry at it Again
Something to know about Terry Rozier, a Shaker Heights native, is that he turns into Michael Jordan when he plays the Cavs. Rozier went off in the third quarter and helped the Hornets amass a 16-point lead. For his career Rozier averages 17.3 points per game against the Cavaliers, only scoring more points per game against the Boston Celtics (17.7) per StatMuse. The man holds grudges. But the Cavs, mainly Isaac Okoro, did a great job slowing Rozier down in the fourth quarter.
After a frustrating first quarter that saw the Hornets pour in 35 points, the Cavs clamped down a bit in the second quarter, survived a Rozier takeover in the third, and really bodied up defensively in the final frame. The Cavs forced 19 turnovers and scored 29 points off of them, admittedly with some help from a relatively poor Hornets offense. Cleveland themselves eliminated their own turnovers to avoid Charlotte getting out in transition, which was the issue in the first quarter.
Donovan Mitchell is clitch
Not much else to say, but Mitchell was money in the fourth quarter when it counted.
Another rendition of a Spida snatch and slay. ️✨@spidadmitchell | #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/8wfI3UNDJS— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 12, 2023
Spida creates the TOUGH floater in the clutch!— NBA (@NBA) March 12, 2023
3-point @cavs lead in the final minute on the NBA App.
: https://t.co/1pomQZN8Pi pic.twitter.com/UTR8gk62cz
A good bench game
While maligned for much of the season, the Cavs’ bench showed up tonight and helped spark the comeback. Caris LeVert, despite a few questionable shot attempts, finished with 15 points on 5-12 shooting, four assists, and two steals. All season, LeVert has played hard on both sides of the ball, and this game was no different. Ricky Rubio also played well, dropping 11 points on 4-7 shooting, and was a game-high +17 while out on the floor.
V3RTYYY ✨— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 12, 2023
#CavsHornets on @BallySportsCLE pic.twitter.com/McsT1tpX9n
Up next: The Cavs will stay in Charlotte and play the Hornets on Tuesday night to finish the back-to-back. The tip is 7 p.m.