The Cleveland Charge will be advancing to the playoffs after picking up a 113-106 road win against the Motor City Cruise in the final game of the regular season.
The Charge came out of the gates firing. They connected on 7 of their first 11 threes to build a 14-point lead four minutes into the second. Motor City countered with by some hot shooting of their own which included draining five of their last six three-point attempts of the half to go into the break with a two-point advantage.
Neither team was able to gain any separation in the second half in a game that turned into a bar-room brawl. Isaiah Mobley kept the Charge in the game with 9 fourth quarter points. Seven of which came in a two minute span when it felt Motor City was beginning to pull away. He capped that stretch off with an emphatic one-handed slam.
Sam Merrill closed the game by hitting two dagger threes in the final minute. Both of which came off of two man actions with Mobley. The first, Mobley sets a screen off a dribble-hand-off to get Merrill open.
The second, Merrill slips the dribble-hand-off leaving him open to burry the jumper.
Coach Mike Gerrity credits their basketball IQ for why both plays were successful.
“The fact that you have two extremely intelligent players makes that possible,” Gerrity said. “So, you run that two-man game and we have options out of it. Sam and Isaiah are so smart that once you make the first one, and they see the adjustment that they made defensively. They already know the counter to go to.”
The Charge were carried by the three Cleveland Cavaliers in action tonight.
Dylan Windler’s confidence continues to grow. He came out of the gates firing as he opened the scoring for the Charge by connecting on a deep three.
Dylan Windler getting us started #ChargeUp | @Dylan_Windler23 pic.twitter.com/tBYrPrPwnq— Cleveland Charge (@ChargeCLE) March 24, 2023
That three was a preview of things to come. Windler set the tone for the team as he provided 11 quick-points in the first quarter.
“He’s playing with a ton of confidence,” Gerrity said. “You can tell that he’s got his rhythm back and his timing back. He’s confident whether he’s shooting from the outside, putting the ball on the floor. On the defensive end he’s competing and guarding and coming up with rebounds.”
Playing the four for the third game in a row continues to pay off for Windler. Having a big on him and being used more as a screener gives him different ways to get threes up. We saw that once again as he was able to connect on 5 of his 7 attempts from deep as he finished with 26 points and 9 rebounds.
Merrill showed why his movement shooting is so important as he finished with 27 points on 6-9 shooting from three. His ability to score in bunches allowed the Charge to regain momentum every time it felt like it was slipping away. He provided six points in the final 30 seconds of the third to give the Charge a three-point lead heading into the fourth. Merrill did the same to close the game out.
Isaiah Mobley has been the team’s best player all season. In the biggest game of the year, he showed why with 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and a block.
“Isaiah is never afraid,” Gerrity said. “He’s got the ultimate confidence and belief in himself. That’s the best quality that you could have. He always is persistent. He’s never afraid of the moment. Never shies away. We’ve seen him do this time and time again this season. To see him come up down the stretch and make big plays was no surprise.”
Mobley indeed carried the offense when it mattered most. He scored or assisted 15 of the team’s 25 points in the fourth quarter. Eighteen of his game high 28 points came in the second half. He did this while being the anchor of a defense that held the Cruise to just 37% from the field and 4 points on 2-7 shooting in the paint in the final quarter.
Sharife Cooper struggled to finish from the field. The team’s most dynamic off-the-dribble scorer couldn’t convert in the paint and was held to 16 points on 3-14 shooting. Cooper remained a positive contributor as he notched 8 assists and 8 rebounds.
“He was running the show and competing on the defensive end of the floor. I thought he played great defense,” Gerrity said. “He wasn’t scoring at the high clip that we’re accustomed to seeing, but making the right plays for his teammates. It just shows that scoring is the only way to impact the game.”
The Charge needed to win their final four games to make the playoffs and that’s exactly what they did.
“Whenever our team has had our backs up against the wall we’ve always responded.” said Gerrity about this win streak. “I had complete belief and confidence in our group that we could get it done. I go back to that first game against Long Island where we were down 21 points with about a minute and a half left in the third quarter. We just scrapped and clawed our way back into the game and came away with that one. That was a reminder that we can accomplish anything when we do it together and we do it the right way.”
Up next: The Charge will find out who they’ll be playing after Saturday’s action. The first two rounds of the G League playoffs are single elimination. As it stands now, the Charge would face the Capital City Go-Go in D.C.