Darius Garland back has been welcomed sight for Cavs in last 2 games

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

It’s been tremendous to see Darius Garland take the leap many seemingly believed he would take in his third season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thus far, Garland has had 19.9 points and 7.3 assists per outing, and has made further strides as a lead playmaker and crucial shot creation presence for the Cavaliers. That’s been awesome, after the young lead guard rebounded last season with 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per contest, in response to a fairly underwhelming rookie year, because of a variety of factors.

This year, as we noted, Garland has taken another step forward for Cleveland, and I can’t overstate how meaningful that’s been, especially with how the Cavaliers have been without Collin Sexton as a scorer and secondary playmaker since early November. They’ll be without Ricky Rubio for the rest of the season as of last week, too.

Recently though, the Cavs were without Garland, who had missed Cleveland’s past four games leading into their close loss against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. The young point man had been placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, as so many players, many of whom have been Cavs players, have had to go through during recent weeks around the league. The omicron variant has reportedly been the key culprit there.

Fortunately, while he was reportedly still getting his wind down coming off COVID-19, and that affected him somewhat in that close loss to Memphis, it was still good to see Darius in there, and he made a difference as usual for Cleveland. Garland was just 9-of-26 from the field, and only 3-of-10 from three-point land, but he did get to his spots typically, and he had 10 assists in that contest.

Along with that, Garland looked to be just fine in the Cavs’ 114-101 win at the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, a game in which the Cavaliers kicked off a six-game Western Conference road trip.

Portland was without Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr., and I’m not glossing over that. But Garland was terrific in that one in following up Tuesday’s game, and he’s coming into his own as a shot creator and playmaker, just as KJG’s own Amadou Sow illustrated.

Having Garland back in the fold has been a welcomed sight for the Cavs.

In the Portland game, Garland came up with big plays in the fourth quarter, en route to eight points and two assists then, and his steal and bucket down the stretch in Portland’s backcourt via heads-up play put the Cavs in the driver’s seat with 2:08 left.

Granted, it was awesome to see Cedi Osman, who’d missed Cleveland’s past six games, have 12 points in the fourth himself as well, and those shooting flurries from him are always big off the bench. That said, in these past two contests, Garland reminded us of his impact yet again for these Cavaliers.

I again recognize that he was only 9-of-26 from the field and hit just 30.0 percent of his deep balls in that close L to Memphis, however, Garland wasn’t quite all the way back conditioning-wise, and he still I don’t believe was necessarily pressing.

Now, 26 shots is not ideally the mold for him for Cleveland; most of those did appear to be in-rhythm, though, and he was often masterful as a passer in that game, even with some for others on the perimeter not falling.

Garland had six helpers in that Portland game, which to three turnovers was fine, and overall, it was apparent to me that seemed to have his wind close to back coming off COVID-19.

In that Friday outing, Garland’s change-of-pace seemed to be there both in set offense and at times in secondary transition, and that led to him opening up things for other guys, and as a scorer, he was very impressive, shooting 10-of-17 from the field.

He was 5-of-8 from three, also, and including with him at times playing with Rajon Rondo (who did a nice job in his first game with Cleveland), it was just great to see Darius pick up where he left off before entering health and safety protocols. The dude is making a compelling All-Star case.

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Hopefully DG keeps up his strong play as this West road trip progresses, with a highly-anticipated rematch with the Golden State Warriors coming up next on Sunday night.