The Cleveland Charge took care of business with a 108-101 win over the Grand Rapids Gold in their final home game of the season.
Charge head coach Mike Gerrity went with a new starting lineup with Dylan Windler at the four. It was his first start of the season as he joined Sharife Cooper, Nate Hinton, Sam Merrill and Isaiah Mobley in the first five.
“We’ve been continuing to build up his minutes,” Gerriry said. “He’s been in a situation where they weren’t starter minutes. So it was better for him to come off the bench.”
This unit got out to a fast start on the offensive end as they opened a 17-point lead in the first quarter. Cleveland wasn’t able to keep that early momentum going. They failed to close the first quarter strong while losing the second and third. The Gold got the deficit within 2 midway through the fourth before the Charge reasserted control with timely buckets from Cooper and Windler.
That starting lineup worked because Windler was able to play power forward as well as he did which is a new position for him. The Charge closed with a lineup with him at the four last game, but this time he played power forward for most of the minutes he was on the floor.
“[Windler] playing the four just gave us a different dimension,” Gerrity said “He’s not quite the same type of athlete as Mamadi [Diakite], but he’s still tall and he’s extremely long. He can alter shots and make things difficult to rebound at a high clip.”
Windler certainly was able to rebound at a high clip as he finished with a game-high 15 boards.
“I just had to get used to some of the plays at the four spot,” Windler said. “I’ve been running the two or three so much with the Cavs and when I’ve been here with the Charge. But, you know, I think you can get a lot of open looks and a lot of actions [at the four]. You get a lot of different looks that you’re not usually used to.”
Playing the four certainly gave Windler more of an opportunity to fire from deep. He took 9 shots from three which is the most he’s attempted in ten games with the Charge. Finding opportunities to shoot the three ball has been an issue at various times. While not conventional, possibly playing the four would give him more of an opportunity to do so.
“Yeah,” said Windler when asked if this is something he could possibly do at the next level. “You got to be able to guard the four man. That’s something I think I can develop into as I put on weight and mature. I definitely think stretch four is a possibility especially with the league getting smaller and smaller. Being able to have that threat, pick-and-pop guy at the four spot opens up a lot.”
“You try to just put the best basketball players out there on the floor. I think it just gives him another dimension. It gives teams versatility in how they want to use him whether it be with us or the Cavs. You can slide him in a lot of different areas and with his rebounding abilities, it allows you to put him at the four fand feel like you’re not missing much from that standpoint.”
Windler finished the game with 24 points on 9-16 shooting with 15 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Cooper once again looked like the dominant player he was in the first half of the season as he finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-17 shooting with 7 assists.
“He did a great job of letting the game to and try to get other guys going,” he said. “As the game started to go on, you saw him get more aggressive and get into that attack mode. He’s a tough guard.”
With only one game left for Cleveland, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is still a mess as there’s a game and a half separating the the third through ninth seeds. Only the top six make the playoffs. The simplest path for the Charge to make the postseason is win Friday night in Detroit.
“It means a lot for our group,” Gerrity said. “We wanted to play meaningful basketball games. We want to compete. It means a lot because I know how much these guys have put into this. You know, they’ve worked so hard and they sacrificed a lot. They deserve to be in this position competing to get in.”
Up next: The Charge are taking the two and a half hour bus ride tonight up to Detroit. They face off against the Motor City Cruise on Friday night. Tip-off is 7 p.m.