Darius Garland helping Cavs get back into games demonstrates growth

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland reacts in-game. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland reacts in-game. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Objectively, it’s not as if the Cleveland Cavaliers have exactly been wowing anybody lately. That’s not been the case, as following Cleveland’s win over the LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward-less Charlotte Hornets last Wednesday, they’ve dropped three in a row.

The Wine and Gold lost to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday by eventually getting worn down it appeared, then lost to the Zach LaVine-less Chicago Bulls on Saturday on the road. From there, they lost in disappointing fashion at the Detroit Pistons on Monday, and despite gradually getting back into it, couldn’t pull that out down the stretch.

Clearly, though, even with some positive signs, based on the last few games, in particular, the Cavs don’t seem to have a realistic shot of getting into the Eastern Conference play-in tourney.

And nobody’s patting them on the back for getting back into things down the stretch in these past two outings, either. They shouldn’t have been in those situations to begin with, and in that Detroit loss, the Pistons were without Jerami Grant, an emerging star, to go with veterans such as Mason Plumlee and Wayne Ellington, for example.

That said, a positive has been how Darius Garland has helped bring Cleveland back in these recent games, and also in the Golden State loss, to an extent.

Garland helping do so in recent games for the Cavs demonstrates growth.

I’m not going to say that Garland hasn’t had a hand at all in Cleveland falling behind in recent games, as there have been rough sequences involving him forcing passes at times, leading to turnovers and sometimes live-ball turnovers at that. There have been instances where he’s forced plays a bit on-ball in the scoring sense here and there, also, and/or some mistakes defensively, such as perhaps unnecessary fouls.

Albeit for a 21-year-old lead guard with the workload he has, those sort of things are to be expected, particularly on a team that is rebuilding.

Let’s not act as if the group overall hasn’t been out of sorts too often, either; it’s hardly all on Garland, and Collin Sexton, for example, has had his hand in bringing Cleveland back in games, even while it did end up resulting in losses the past three. I give Sexton his props, too, for his competitiveness and contributions with bucket-getting, in that Detroit game, as a secondary playmaker, and in other sequences, defensive ball pressure to some degree.

Plus, Isaiah Hartenstein, in an overall sense, has continued to be a bright spot for the Cavaliers on the interior on both ends, and even as a secondary playmaker in his own right.

In Garland’s case, though he did only go seven-of-20 from the field in that loss to Golden State, he did have some key plays to bring Cleveland back into until the late third quarter, which played into the Cavs at one point cutting Golden State’s lead to just four points. In the primary playmaking sense in that one, Garland’s seven assists illustrated that to some extent, most notably.

Now, Stephen Curry would start to heat in the closing moments of the third then, and Golden State would end up cruising in the fourth, but that from Garland was a plus.

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And in the last two games for the Wine and Gold, his efforts aided Cleveland in getting back into things.

Garland ended up going only nine-of-21 from the field overall at Chicago, which wasn’t great; a four-of-eight hit rate from three-point range was meaningful in the Cavaliers getting right back into it, though. Garland tieing a career-best with 12 assists in that outing was, too.

The Bulls in the last 2:30 would end up pulling away thanks largely to consecutive pick-and-pops, and would end up winning by 10.

Albeit even after a rough third quarter for Cleveland, Garland’s efforts were key in bringing them back/helping give them a chance down the stretch, to go with Sexton’s to a degree, for example.

And lastly, although I’ll preface it by reiterating the Detroit loss was a very disappointing one, and Cleveland falling down by 23 points in the first quarter was inexcusable, Garland’s efforts, and Sexton’s in the first half, played into that being close.

Garland ended up having 23 points on nine-of-19 shooting, to go with six assists and two steals. In the fourth, when the Cavs at one point took the lead, even while narrowly, he had 12 big points, though, on four-of-seven shooting, and had two assists.

Granted, the Pistons would end up getting the win in the last few possessions, which was rough to see, and I’m not glossing over that. But it’s been encouraging to see Cleveland’s young lead guard continue to take strides as the season progresses.

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And Garland helping lead the Cavs back into things in recent games, even in what would result in losses down the stretch, is further evidence of that.