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What we learned about the Cleveland Cavaliers this week: March 27 - April 2

Jarrett Allen’s presence was sorely missed in the Cavs’ loss to the Knicks.

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers dropped two of their three games this week including a lopsided loss to the New York Knicks in a likely first round preview. Here’s what we learned.

The Cavs can’t contain the Knicks on the glass without Jarrett Allen

New York has the third ranked offense this season, despite being somewhat inefficient. They have a team effective field goal percentage of 54.3% which is 19th in the league. They’ve made the offense work despite that by committing the sixth least turnovers, having the ninth best free throw rate and grabbing 30.7% of their missed shots which is second best in the league. This has led to New York averaging 16.2 second chance points per game which is third most.

Cleveland has the third rated defense with a 111.1 defensive rating, but have struggled at times to keep opponent’s off the offensive glass. This is especially true with Jarrett Allen off the floor and Kevin Love no longer a member of the team. With Allen on the court and Love off, Cleveland has grabbed 74.5% of opponent misses which is in the 74th percentile among the league. However, without Allen and Love Cleveland is grabbing a horrendous 68.9% of opponent misses which is in the 6th percentile.

The Knicks were able to take advantage of the Cavs’ poor rebounding without Allen on Friday night as they grabbed 16 offensive boards. Cleveland’s inability to end possessions was a problem as they allowed New York to post a 138.3 offensive rating which is the team’s worst single-game defensive rating on the season.

New York has been able to dominate the offensive glass in both games they’ve played Cleveland without Allen. Unsurprisingly, they haven’t had nearly as much success in this category when Allen is available.

CLE vs. NYK offensive rebounds
Rebounding percentage and percentile number from Cleaning the Glass

Evan Mobley has played like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate all season including this recent stretch without Allen. Mobley has also developed into a much better rebounder at center compared to last season. However, the Cavs don’t have much size or rebounding at other positions to make up for it with Allen out.

The Knicks were able to take full advantage of that on Friday.

Cleveland can’t stop Jalen Brunson without Isaac Okoro

Jalen Brunson was also able to exploit the Cavs being shorthanded as he exploded for 48 points on 18-32 shooting (56.2%).

Lamar Stevens drew the primary assignment on Brunson but struggled at the point of attack. Stevens doesn’t have the foot speed needed to stay with Brunson which resulted in constant blowbyes. The same was true for Caris LeVert, Donovan Mitchell or whoever else J.B. Bickerstaff used to try and slow Brunson down.

This was not the case in the three prior meetings where Okoro was able to be a primary defender on Brunson. In those three contests, Brunson averaged 17.7 points on 41.7% shooting from the field and 30% from distance.

Okoro is much better suited to guard Brunson. Okoro is at his best when he’s defending a one or two guard he has a height advantage on. His lateral quickness allows him to stay with smaller guards. This, combined with his physicality can make life difficult for his opponent.

We saw this in the matchups between Brunson and Okoro earlier this season. Without Okoro and Allen, Brunson was able to get wherever he wanted on the floor as evidenced by his chaotic shot chart.

Brunson vs. CLE

Donovan Mitchell has the second most 40-point games in franchise history

Mitchell has put together one of the best individual seasons in team history. Arguably the best from someone not named LeBron James.

He’s now compiled the second most 40-point games as a Cavalier surpassing Kyrie Irving. Mitchell completed this feat in 341 less games than Irving. Mitchell has also tallied the most 40-point games in a season for a Cavalier exceeding the 10 James recorded in the 2005-06 season. Mitchell notched three straight 40-point games this past week.

His 44 points against the Atlanta Hawks kept the Cavs in a game they otherwise had no business being in. His 42 against the Knicks helped keep the game competitive for three and a half quarters despite the poor defensive effort and Brunson’s 48. His 40 against the Indiana Pacers allowed Cleveland to steal a victory they probably didn’t deserve based on their play through three quarters.

Mitchell’s incredible scoring ability combined with his fit on what should be a 50+ win team will likely land him on an All-NBA team. He would be the fifth Cavalier to receive that honor.

Cavs are 7-5 when Mitchell scores 40 or more

Despite the impressive scoring, the Cavs weren’t able to win two of their three contests this week. This is becoming a somewhat reoccurring trend as the Cavs have lost four of the last six games Mitchell has reached the 40-point threshold.

This isn’t an issue of the Cavs somehow being a worse team when Mitchell takes control of the offense. Instead, it’s often an indicator that Mitchell is able to score in bunches if that’s what his team needs on a given night to keep the game competitive like a quarterback needing to throw 40+ times after falling behind.

Mitchell has proven to be an elite playoff scorer in his time with the Utah Jazz. This season he’s shown an ability to elevate his game in the biggest moments. Both bode well for the Cavs in the playoffs.

Final Score: Cleveland Cavaliers beat Atlanta Hawks 128-105

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks gamethread

What to watch for: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks