When Darius Garland is as good as he was Friday night, the Cavaliers usually don’t lose.
And lose they did not — fighting their way to a 114-109 road win over the Spurs. Garland erupted for 32 points, and the Cavs needed every last one of them.
That included some critical scoring in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth slugfest of a game. Garland, by the way, played all of the final 12 minutes.
“He loves that pressure,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Garland. “We tried to use our timeouts wisely to give him breaks throughout the fourth quarter. But when it’s on the line, he wants to be in the game. It was close and he didn’t want to come out.”
It’s nights like this that remind you why everyone thought Garland would have a breakout season. Warriors star Steph Curry was among those who have offered praise. Interestingly, both are the sons of former NBA guards. Curry’s dad, Dell Curry, played for the Cavaliers. Garland’s dad, Winston Garland, played for the Warriors. There is lots of basketball in those bloodlines.
Garland even hit a Curry-like shot, a 3-pointer from the halfcourt logo at the buzzer of halftime. He buried the basket and just kept running straight into the locker room.
“I knew it was going in when it left my hands,” Garland said. “When it went in, I just started running. The team wanted me to come to the bench. I’m like, ‘Bro, it’s half. Let’s just go to the locker room. We can celebrate later.'”
It was a magical shot in what has been a fairly magical season for the Cavs (25-18), who improved to 4-1 on their magical longest trip of the season.
Others such as Lamar Stevens (eight points), Lauri Markkanen (ditto), Brandon Goodwin (seven) and Kevin Love (ditto) also contributed in their own ways. And Isaac Okoro returned from a left elbow sprain to score five. As usual, it took the entire team, and the entire team is just fine with it.
Defensively, the Cavs were far from great, but they generally got stops when they needed them.
“I think this trip, funny enough, it’s about us getting our identity back,” Allen said. “After Ricky (Rubio) got hurt, we saw us falter a little bit into an identity that I didn’t think was us. Over these past three, four games, we’re starting to learn how to play Cavs basketball again, how to share the ball and how to defend.”
The Cavs wrap up their trip Saturday at Oklahoma City.