The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business in South Beach with a 104-100 win over the Miami Heat. Darius Garland led the way for Cleveland with 25 points on 8-16 hooting with 7 assists and 2 steals.
Kevin Love’s first game against Cleveland was forgettable
Cavs’ fans will always remember Love for what he’s done for this franchise both on and off the court. His performance tonight however won’t be remembered in a few weeks.
Love looked very much like the guy who fell out of the Cavs’ rotation in late January. Aside from drawing a few fouls against Evan Mobley early in the game, Love was mostly a non-factor. The outside shot wasn’t there which severely constricts his overall usefulness. The Cavs were able to hide Donovan Mitchell on Love which freed up Evan Mobley and Lamar Stevens to take the primary assignment on Jimmy Butler.
The Cavalier legend concluded the evening with 8 points on 4-7 shooting with 8 boards.
Darius Garland’s feel for the game remains very good.
Garland’s fit alongside Donovan Mitchell is the biggest reason why the Cavs’ season has been as successful as it has. Tonight was a perfect example of why that’s been the case.
The fourth-year point guard’s feel for the game is advanced for someone his age. His ability to keep his finger on the pulse of what this offense needs at all times while still hunting for opportunities to call his own number is what makes him so special.
We saw that on full display this evening. Mitchell didn’t have it going offensively (1-7 from three) so Garland took it upon himself to be the main source of offense and to close out the win.
Miami was reckless with the ball tonight and the Cavs made them pay. Miami turned it over on over a quarter of their offensive possessions resulting in 22 turnovers. This led to 29 points off turnovers for a Cleveland offense that really struggled in the half court.
Winning around the margins is often what decides close games like this. Taking advantage of Miami’s sloppy turnovers was a big contributor in the win.
Lamar Stevens is currently in the eight-man rotation
Stevens was the first Cavalier off the bench after his monstrous fourth quarter and overtime performance against the Boston Celtics on Monday night. He made the most of his opportunity as he was the most active player on both ends of the floor.
There aren’t a lot of good options at back up big. Dean Wade has been a trainwreck recently while Cedi Osman has repeatedly shown throughout his career that the four isn’t somewhere he can play for even short spurts. Despite Stevens’s obvious offensive limitations, he is best served playing the four with one of Mobley and Jarrett Allen as opposed to both which is the role he played when he was a starter earlier this season.
Evan Mobley defending a guard isn’t a mismatch
If you’ve watched the Cavs at all you know that Mobley is more than capable staying with a guard in space. Tyler Herro clearly haven’t seen a lot of Cleveland basketball this season.
Mobley gets switched onto the perimeter against Herro— Tony Pesta (@Tony_Pesta) March 9, 2023
No problem pic.twitter.com/OUYIvBVgAK
Herro had to learn this lesson a few times.
Mobley also saved the game by fighting back under a Bam Adebayo screen after a brief miscommunication with Allen.
Mobley won the game for the Cavs with this huge block on Jimmy Butler late. DPOY type beat. pic.twitter.com/yFeTw2reFv— SangxHarMobley (@SangRockets) March 9, 2023
Mobley’s defense and ability to be the primary defender on Butler is a huge reason why the Cavs were able to get a win in this somewhat disjointed game. He continues to make a strong case as to why he should be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
The Cavs were able to finish off a close road game
Cleveland has struggled in clutch time situations (games within five points in the final five minutes) on the road. Coming into today, the Cavs were 4-12 while being outscored by 24.2 points per 100 possessions in the clutch.
It wasn’t pretty tonight. The Cavs surrendered a 7-0 run in the final three minutes to make it a one-point game. Key baskets from Garland and Isaac Okoro in traffic coupled with a few outrageous defensive sequence from Evan Mobley allowed them to escape with the hard-fought victory.
Closing on the road has been one of their biggest issues this season. Seeing them take a step in the right direction was encouraging even though there’s still room for improvement.
Late-game inbounds remain bad
One of those rooms for improvement is the late game inbounds and ATOs. The Cavs should’ve won this game by five or more. Instead, the Heat were able to shut down a late-game inbound causing a five-second violation which resulted in a Herro three on the next possession to make it a two-point game.
The ensuing ATO might’ve been even worse. The whole play was Mitchell and Garland sprinting into the backcourt while Ricky Rubio is already stationed there. The Cavs barely beat the five-second clock and were forced to inbound it to Jarrett Allen which likely would’ve resulted in a turnover if it wasn’t for a generous foul call.
Allen isn’t at all the guy you want with the ball in that situation. He split his free throws which gave Miami a chance to tie the game.
This has been a reoccurring theme. We’re too late into the season for this level of execution. The Cavs are too good to potentially be losing games in this fashion.
Up next: The Cavs are staying in South Florida and will be taking on the Heat again on Friday. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.