SAN ANTONIO – Darius Garland felt it early on. Hours before tipoff.
Despite Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, which started earlier than usual – at. 18 local time as opposed to kl. 19 – held the Cleveland Cavaliers morning shoot in the AT&T Center. There was no horse play. No jokes. No laughter. Everyone was locked inside. It was all business. Then, as the Cavs were traveling to the team hotel near the famous San Antonio Riverwalk, Garland assistant JJ Outlaw ̵
Garland was wrong. It was a store day. The best of his young career that helped the Cavs snatch their frustratingly sliding pentathlon and cross past the Spurs, 125-101.
Second-year point guard Cleveland scored the first nine points. He was just getting started and finished with a career-high 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range to go with seven assists in 30 minutes.
Garland showed it all. Vision. Handling of bullets. Delivery. Recording. There were patented floats, drive finishes, slippery jumpers and long-range bombs. He swung around on screens and boiled defenders in isolation and got where he wanted. He even muscled at the defensive end and took two steals and a block. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich jumped traps and tried pressure in full court. He used several defenders, some with speed and others with size. The spurs even switched to zone a few different times. Nothing worked. Garland had all the answers.
That’s exactly what the Cavaliers envisioned almost two years ago when they made Garland the fifth pick in the 2019 draft and paired him with Collin Sexton in hopes of building a dynamic young backcourt. While it has been a slower increase for Garland, nights like Monday show the potential. He’s starting to look just as good as the franchise point guard. That’s why teammates call him “DG PG.”
“It all lies in there. We just have to keep it out of him, ”Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff told cleveland.com.
After the shootaround, which Bickerstaff ran more like a practice, Garland focused on two areas when discussing the plan for victory. The same things he has been harping on all season: First and third quarters.
Garland made sure it was not a problem Monday. Aggressively early, he scored 11 of his 37 points in the first quarter. There was no dip in energy from Cleveland during the break this time. Coming out of the locker room with more time on the clock and led by Garland, who poured 14 points more into the third, the league’s worst third quarter broke out in 43 over the dazzling 12 minutes. This time, the Cavs only had to protect one lead instead of fighting uphill.
“When we came out in the second half, we just had to come up with a lot of energy and play like we played in the first half,” Garland said. “To play with pace, speed, swing the ball around, get an open look. We continued to preach it in the second half. Get light looks and many turn-turn passes in 3s. Just walked in the hanger tonight. ”
Sexton chipped in with 22 points and came back from a poor shooting start. Isaac Okoro also reached double numbers and counted 11 points on 4-of-6 from the field and 3-of-3 from deep. Kevin Love, who played his third straight game and was still on a one-minute limit while working his way back from injury, added nine points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes.
“I will come back and see the film. Keep my confidence high. Just show that I can do this at night. Keep playing how I played, ”Garland said. “If shots go, shots go. If not, you still need to figure out how to make a profit. It’s about the players on this team, not just me. We all brought it tonight. ”
So much of the last stretch is about answering questions. What works. What does not. Who belongs. Who does not. Garland continues to show where he fits in – and why the Cavs never stopped believing in him.
“I thought he was great tonight,” Bickerstaff said. “We saw his potential in the draft, and it is clear that we chose him. We believed in his potential. It has been a difficult start due to his circumstances. But we knew steps were coming. We want him to play with this faith and trust every single night, because that’s what’s guarding, and that’s what airlines do. So when he feels like that, we want him to take advantage of this, bottle it up and bring it Thursday in Oklahoma City and then the next game, because that’s the potential we see in him. ”
Bickerstaff shortened his bench Monday night and went with just four guys while again taking Cedi Osman out of the rotation. Well, until the game got out of hand and it was time for Brodric Thomas to finish. This adjustment worked. Behind backup center Isaiah Hartenstein and Taurean Prince, the Cavs got 42 points from the reserves.
Hartenstein scored 16 points on 7-of-8 from the field to go with 12 rebounds and three assists. Prince flipped in with 14 points and seven boards.
The Cavs end their road trip with three games Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tipoff is set for 20.00
New Cavs face masks for sale: Here you can buy Cleveland Cavaliers-themed face coatings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NBA proceeds donated to charity.
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