Dribbles: Darius Garland Eruption Close, But Not Enough to Save Undermanned Cavs

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 129-124 home loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday. Darius Garland

1. For a while there, the Cavs looked totally buried. Then Darius Garland happened.

2. But let’s start at the beginning. The Cavs were without two All-Star starters — leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (ankle) and Jarrett Allen (also ankle). Dean Wade, a regular part of the rotation, was also missing for a second straight game with a knee issue. (None of the injuries seem overly serious, by the way.)

3. Along with that, the Cavs were returning from a tough trip out West. If you know anything about the NBA, you know that the first home game after a long trip can be … well, sloppy and sluggish. For the first three quarters, that was the undermanned Cavs.

4. They trailed by 20 at halftime. They trailed by 20 entering the third quarter. But with about six seconds left in the game, they only trailed by three.

5. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication on an inbounds pass under the Timberwolves’ basket, and Kevin Love ended up throwing the ball away. That was that, and the Cavs (8-5) have dropped four straight.

6. But man, it wasn’t for a lack of fight late in the game, especially from Garland. He erupted for a career-high 51 points, including 27 in the final 12 minutes. It was undoubtedly the type of night he needed after struggling out West.

7. As J.B. Bickerstaff said on Garland: “It was good for him. Good for his confidence.”

8. Garland finished 16-of-31 from the field and a sizzling 10-of-15 on 3-pointers. The only downside was he finished 9-of-13 on free throws. Either way, he was practically a one-man band who almost delivered a smash-hit of a win.

9. Overall, the Cavs really hurt themselves from the line, finishing 27-of-39 in what became a close game. If they had made even four more …

10. For a while there, it looked like the Cavs should never wear those “City Edition” uniforms again, because that was their worst first three quarters of the season. Like, by far. But at least the uniforms are nice.

11. Then came the fourth, and Garland, and some real resolve from a team that is always determined. Honestly, as bad as things can get, you can always count on Bickerstaff’s group to never just mail it in.

12. Bickerstaff on the Cavs’ options entering the fourth: “You quit, or you fight. And these guys won’t quit.”

13. More Bickerstaff, on Garland: “He was phenomenal. He kept competing. We were sluggish at the start, and he kept after it.”

14. But it wasn’t enough. Without Mitchell, the Cavs needed a big night from either Evan Mobley or Caris LeVert or Love. But Mobley scored just four points, struggling to contend with the tall Timberwolves trees known as Karl-Anthony Towns (29 points) and Rudy Gobert (15). Mobley did at least tie those two with a game-high 13 rebounds, though.

15. Love scored 14, but was just 3-of-11 shooting. LeVert had a fairly pedestrian 13 points. Not bad games — just not the kind the Cavs needed.

16. Meanwhile, not only did Lamar Stevens get some playing time, but he started, and produced — with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. I asked Bickerstaff about Stevens after the game, and the coach responded by talking about all the intangibles Stevens provides. The Cavs could use that energy and determination more often.

17. Cedi Osman tacked on 14 points in reserve, and Isaac Okoro (eight) may have had his best effort of the year. He was active and made some crucial plays. Maybe he was motivated by not starting for Mitchell.

18. Back to Mobley and LeVert. Both have had issues holding on to the ball for the entire early season. Neither has looked fluid nor certain when making a move. Cleveland really needs that to change to truly go places this season.

19. D’Angelo Russell led the Timberwolves (6-8) with 30 points, and on 11-of-13 shooting, no less. Minnesota has had its issues early, but this opponent was no slouch. There’s some real talent there.

20. Same goes for the Cavs, and Bickerstaff doesn’t seem concerned with the losing streak, given the circumstances at the moment.

21. Bickerstaff in conclusion: “There’s no reason to panic. We’ve got a good basketball team in that locker room. If we keep competing, we’ll be just fine.”

Looking for the latest NBA Insider News & Rumors?

Be sure to follow Hoops Wire on TWITTER and FACEBOOK for breaking NBA News and Rumors for all 32 teams!

Leave a Reply