The Cleveland Charge picked up their second win in as many days against the Long Island Nets with a 107-100 victory. The Charge are now a half game back from the final playoff spot with two games remaining.
The Charge called on reinforcements in what was essentially a must-win game. Dylan Windler and Mamadi Diakite, who were both with the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday, were back with the Charge on Saturday as well as Sam Merrill.
Unlike yesterday, the Charge came out of the gates swinging. The reinforcements helped, but it was Isaiah Mobley who was most responsible for the change. He set the tempo on both ends in the first half, but specifically the second quarter where he notched 13 points and 7 boards in that frame alone.
Mobley did a great job of forcing mismatches and attacking them repeatedly in the post while once again making a habit of getting to the line. That aggressive playing style led to six turnovers. Most of which came from guards digging from the perimeter and forcing turnovers. But, when he got into his shot, they mostly went in.
“We want him to be aggressive, but six turnovers is too many,” said Charge head coach Mike Gerrity afterwards. “He knows that. But I don’t want to take his aggressiveness away. We have to help in those situations by having better spacing and not allowing him to have to play in such a crowd.”
The slow starts that have plagued the Charge were saved for the second half instead. An 11-point lead quickly vanished as the game headed to the fourth tied at 79.
Mobley picked up 5 quick points in the opening minutes of the fourth before receiving his second tech for miming a finger gun to the Nets’ bench after hitting a three. The first was from an inadvertent elbow in the second quarter.
Despite only playing 28 minutes, Mobley finished the night with a team high 24 points on 7-11 shooting with 10 rebounds.
“It was a tough loss for us when that happened with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter,” said Gerrity afterwards. “But his guys had his back and they finished it out. Isaiah plays with a ton of passion and emotion. It’s one of the things that makes him special. He’s a very competitive player.”
A group effort led the Charge to victory. The defense tightened up as they allowed only 11 points in the final 9 and a half minutes.
“I told the group afterwards that I couldn’t wait to watch the last five or six minutes on film,” said Gerrity. “I saw them channel that fourth quarter that they had last night. The defensive physicality, toughness, rotations covering for one another. All those things that we talk about and preach were on full display.”
The duo of Sam Merrill and Dylan Windler led the offense down the stretch. Merrill picked up 6 points and 4 assists in the final frame while Windler grabbed 8 points and 3 boards on 3-3 shooting in the fourth.
“Whenever you can put two great shooters on the floor together and have them play in different kind of screening actions is going to work,” remarked Gerrity. “They move well without the ball and are very intelligent players that just know angles and reads. You throw in a big like Mamadi and the options are unlimited.”
Merrill’s ability to move off ball and make the correct read allowed this pairing to work so well.
“One of the things about Sam is he is always able to create advantages because people are so worried about his shooting,” commented Gerrity. “Whether it be that they’re switching or that they’re chasing over handoffs, he is almost always able to create that two on one situation. So he can come back for three or play that two-man game with a big. He’s just a multi-dimensional player.”
Windler essentially played the four down the stretch allowing the Charge to close with three shooters in Nate Hinton along with Merrill. This provided spacing for Diakite and Sharife Cooper to get to the basket like they were able to do in the fourth.
“When he’s at the four he’s such a good defender,” said Gerrity. “He can go one through five and he rebounds like a five man. He’s also able to stretch the floor at that position to where now those pick-and-rolls with are fives are a little bit more open.”
This was the exact type of game the best version of Windler can provide. His versatility on both ends, due in part to his size, paired with his lethal shot is why he remains an intriguing player despite the injuries. The Charge’s playoff hopes are likely extinguished tonight if it wasn’t for his fourth quarter after Mobley was ejected.
Up next: The Charge have their final home game of the season against the Grand Rapids Gold on Thursday March 23. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.