Dean Wade continues to play basketball like the Cavs need him to. His box score doesn’t look all that impressive — 16 minutes, 3-4 from three, 2 blocks — on its own. But the way he’s playing right now is with real confidence. He’s taking open shots, he’s playing good defense and he’s filling the exact role Cleveland needs him to be. It’s the kind of play they need from him the rest of the way after not electing to make a move at the deadline.
The Cavs’ defense was stifling in Brooklyn. The Nets were held to an offensive rating well below league average and were only kept in the game at all by a hot three-point shooting night. Cleveland kept Brooklyn from making shots at the rim, getting to the free throw line, or doing anything efficiently. The Cavs got stop after stop after stop in this one, including to start the second half when they went on a 21-0 run.
Evan Mobley’s leap might be happening right now. He’s playing high-level two-way basketball right now and is back to looking like a demon on defense. He didn’t take a three in this game, but the Nets did react to him some on the perimeter instead of just ignoring him. The six games Mobley has played since returning bode well for what’s to come.
Donovan Mitchell is just really good at basketball. He set a new career-high in blocks on Thursday, scored an efficient 27 points and threw this pass to Sam Merrill. This is the best basketball Mitchell has ever played.
Darius Garland looked more like himself on Thursday. He was 6-10 from the field. He had 7 assists against just one turnover — perhaps the best indicator of his play quality considering how sloppy he’s been at times this year. He also played nearly 30 minutes — a sign that he’s perhaps getting closer to full strength after losing 12 pounds and having his activity limited after breaking his jaw.
But he still isn’t quite right. He was 0-3 from three. Off-ball, Garland doesn’t move much when the ball isn’t in his hands. So while he’s ramping up, Garland isn’t where he needs to be yet. There’s a lot to figure out here.
How can anything be down right now after another win and everyone on the roster playing a real part? The Cavs are in a great place. The roster makes sense and is deep. They are second in the Eastern Conference and are now two full games up on the Milwaukee Bucks and 1.5 games up on the New York Knicks. Life is good.