The Cleveland Cavaliers' defensive effort in the second half allowed them to get away with sleepwalking through the first two quarters against the Memphis Grizzlies. With the win, the Cavs have now won 12 of their last 13 contests.
Donovan Mitchell’s impact can’t be overstated as he carried a lifeless Cavs team to another win in as many nights.
This is why having a star player is so important. Role players can put you in a position to win, but many nights you need a star to carry you through the finish line. Mitchell didn’t score 20 points in the fourth quarter like he did against the Detroit Pistons, but he did dispatch the Grizzlies all the same with an efficient 25 points and seven assists.
Damian Jones’s ability to provide serviceable minutes kept the team on track in the third quarter when Jarrett Allen exited with an ankle injury. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but holding his own against Jaren Jackson Jr. on a night Memphis was running everything through him was much needed.
Dean Wade’s two-way impact allowed the Cavs to not miss a beat in the fourth despite not having the first three centers on the depth chart. Wade played the entire final frame at center and did a good job of staying with Jackson on the defensive end while forcing him out of the paint on the other. Both were invaluable down the stretch.
Jarrett Allen’s antibodies came back with a vengeance after it seemed like he was going to collapse on the floor the night before with an illness. Allen powered through it against the Pistons, but seemed to be thriving in the first half on Thursday. He had three blocks in just 21 minutes including this one on GG Jackson.
Jarrett Allen’s ankle kept him out of most of the second half after falling awkwardly. The Cavs are hoping this isn’t something that will keep him out of the lineup. Cleveland desperately needs as many reps as possible with their ideal starting five that’s looked anything but ideal in the time they shared the floor. For them to do that, they need Allen out there as much as possible.
Three-point attempts buoyed the Cavs’ offense for the month and a half they were forced to play without Evan Mobley and Darius Garland. However, the Cavs have attempted just 35 threes in both games they’ve played since Garland’s return. For context, they were attempting 41.8 in their 19 previous games.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it’s worth monitoring whether this team can keep up this three-point volume with Garland running the show. It isn’t something they’ve shown they can do in previous seasons.
Good sportsmanship wasn't exactly on display. Mitchell got a technical foul after clapping in a referee’s face after a missed call. Bickerstaff tried to one-up him moments later by storming onto the court to continue the argument picking up a technical of his own.
Then there was Max Strus shoving GG Jackson in mid-air on an alley-oop attempt which later caused Vince Williams Jr. to retaliate by shoving Strus at the end of regulation.
You can take Dillon Brooks out of this matchup, but you can’t take out the increased tensions for whatever reason.
Darius Garland rebounded nicely from a miserable first half. Garland exhibited all of the bad characteristics that led to his uneven start to the season as he committed three baffling turnovers in 11 minutes while only attempting one three in the first two quarters.
But Garland showed just how good he could be in the second half where he contributed seven points, three assists, and no turnovers in the second half. This included an impressive run at the start of the fourth that allowed the Cavs to seize control of the game.
Also, there aren’t many people alive who can make this pass.
The Cavs go as Garland does when he’s on the floor. They need him to be the guy he was in the second half if they want to reach their ceiling.