It was good to see the Cleveland Cavaliers snap their three-game skid on Sunday night in a victory over the Toronto Raptors where the team did enough to get baskets when they needed them, and defensively, they played pretty well. Toronto was without Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, and I’m not glossing over that, but the Cavaliers got the job done, either way.
They didn’t get out of the game unscathed, though. One of Cleveland’s best players in Jarrett Allen played just 10 minutes in the contest, because of a quad contusion and he fractured his left middle finger too, and will be out indefinitely.
We’ll have to see how long he is out for, but that was awful news, given how much Allen means to this team. He was an All-Star this season, and is one of the team’s best players, undoubtedly.
In the mean time, maybe we could see Cleveland eventually look to sign Moses Brown, a potential free agent target our own Josh Cornelissen suggested, and at minimum, Ed Davis should receive more interim play.
What’s apparent, regardless, is that the likes of Evan Mobley and Kevin Love could have bigger roles on offense, and for defensive purposes, perhaps Dean Wade could receive more playing time.
But circling back to the offensive end of the floor for a bit here, one player I’d expect to be perhaps more of a focal point is Lauri Markkanen, with the inside-out element in mind.
Sans Allen, the Cavs will need the inside-out game from Markkanen.
Since returning from an 11-game absence due to an ankle sprain, while he did seemingly step awkwardly regarding his lower leg a few games back, Markkanen has not looked limited, and he’s been moving pretty well, all things considered.
Granted, he hasn’t been able to get his three-point looks to go down at close to the same scorching clip he had in weeks prior to his ankle sprain in January, as one would likely have expected. Since his return post-All-Star break, Markkanen has hit 34.1 percent from three, and that’s only because he went 6-of-9 from three in a comeback win over the Washington Wizards nearly a couple of weeks back.
That said, Darius Garland missing three of those games didn’t help, and it was going to take some time for Markkanen to get his rhythm back, involving catch-and-shoots. On the plus side, with decently open looks for him hopefully to come still, I’d expect him to get going once again here, and at least to some extent with Allen out, there could be more opportunities for Markkanen.
And even with the deep shooting not quite back yet for him, Markkanen has been able to get some looks to go down off of cuts, quick drives or by using his 7-foot height to shoot over defenders inside the lane.
That’s not necessarily always led to shots falling of course, but he has generated his share of free throws in the process, and the Cavs will need more of late from him, particularly without Allen’s interior presence. In Markkanen’s post-All-Star break play thus far, he’s had a decent 5.0 free throw attempts per game, and has connected on 83.3 percent of those.
So, while Markkanen’s true shooting rate hasn’t been exceptional at 53.3 percent post-All-Star break, and there’s been inconsistencies for him this season, albeit in a transitional season for his role, the Cavaliers do need his inside-out game in this crucial stretch.
Markkanen is still more than capable of filling it up for the Wine and Gold, as we have seen, and even with the triples being largely off versus Toronto, he did impact the game in other ways, such as having 12 rebounds. Plus, he did go 3-of-4 from the foul line, and he went 5-of-6 inside the arc.
We’ll need to see Lauri be looking to get to his spots off-ball in set offense, but also make his imprint on games from decisive play at times throughout games leading to quality interior shots, where he’s more than capable of making things happen. With Allen out, both he and Mobley will have expanded roles, I’d imagine.