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Why Darius Garland’s aggressiveness is key to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offensive success

Garland’s big Game 2 should set the stage for the rest of the series.

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

While Donovan Mitchell had led the charge in the regular season, Darius Garland is the x- factor for the Cavaliers offense in the postseason.

In Game 1 against the Knicks, the Cavaliers offense was muddled and in search of someone who could be the Robin to Donovan Mitchell’s Batman. Mitchell had 30 shot attempts in the loss, and it felt like he was the only player willing to take those shots needed to keep close with New York.

Those 30 attempts currently remain the highest amount of field goal attempts in the postseason thus far. Jimmy Butler (27) and De’Aaron Fox (27) were tied for second, but their attempts led to victories for their respective teams.

It was clear the Cavs needed more. Enter Darius Garland.

When Darius Garland plays aggressively it unlocks more of the Cavaliers’ offense. When Mitchell goes into certain zones it seems like more often than not that teammates kind of are tasked with sitting around and watching the greatness first hand, Garland, on the other hand, despite being known for his ability to score from all spots on the court, is a throwback pass first point guard.

The best version of Garland’s best version is when he provides gravity to draw defenders to help off of the corners. With Garland on the floor playing score first he was still able to find the bigs and wings in the game finishing with 7 assists. Garland plays at his own tempo, when that tempo is disrupted by a lack of touches as seen by game one where was more idle than any version we saw this past season it really hinders any sort of offensive flow.

When Garland is able to generate the amount of offensive pressure like he did in Game 2 it will also benefit Donovan Mitchell. The Cavs ran a lot of high guard pick and rolls between Mitchell, Garland, LeVert and Osman. This opened up a lot more options for the team and created an optimal amount of spacing as well. If Garland and Mitchell can both get going their offense is the great stabilizer for the Cavaliers as a whole.

Mitchell operated as a pseudo point guard in Game 2 due to the defensive attention he received. Now, the Knicks will need to give both Garland and Mitchell equal defensive attention as they try to figure out how to deal with the Brunson manhunt the Cavaliers executed in Game 2. Having both guards able to freely attack the Knicks defense opens up opportunities for LeVert, Osman, and Danny Green to generate more open looks on the perimeter.

In Game 1 Garland had one assist, while there was a potential for 13 assists if teammates made their shots it truly felt like Garland was mentally tapped out. It’s very natural for players to be less engaged when they are involved as heavily as they would like. But for a player who is the Cavaliers’ connective tissue, it really hampers morale teamwide.

This should be part of the Cavs’ blueprint going forward. Garland was firing away from the perimeter and attacking the glass with an aggressiveness that was not the case for most of the season; the Cavs benefited from the aggression. Garland was averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game in the regular season, in game two he made all 11 free throws he attempted.

This was the defining feature of Garland’s play Tuesday night. If Garland is willing to accept the physical play of the postseason and meet the Knicks and potential future foes at the cup, it truly opens up the floor not only for the bigs, but for the other players on the floor.

If the Cavaliers want to sustain what they saw offensively from the team, they need to look no further than Garland and how he truly is the straw that stirs the drink for Cleveland.