In his first playoff game, Cleveland Cavaliers lead guard Darius Garland wasn’t at this best. He made some plays, sure, it just wasn’t what he’s capable of.
In Cleveland’s Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks, Garland had 17 points on seven-of-13 shooting, but he had just one assist and committed five turnovers. New York threw double teams at him throughout the game, and they assuredly will do that in various points in contests to come in the series as well.
Clearly, Garland will need to braced for those to come, and his decision-making has to be sound game-to-game against New York, and hopefully, in other postseason series’ to follow.
What was a bit odd to see from Garland in Saturday’s game versus the Knicks, though, was how looked fairly passive in the second half, and in pick-and-roll situations in the game, he wasn’t as sharp as he typically has been. Garland did hit three-of-five shot attempts in the second half, which alright. He just didn’t look to be as impactful as one would be accustomed to seeing him be.
It was Garland’s first playoff game, similarly to Evan Mobley, who struggled offensively, in fairness, and it’s reasonable to anticipate Garland to rebound in Game 2, and feasibly in ensuing games. Both of those guys are so talented, and they’re both high IQ players.
Pertaining to Garland here, something that could pay off more for himself and others as games wear on, for that matter, could be him getting his floater/push shot game going.
Garland hitting some floaters could help open some things up for the Cavs.
The deep ball is always going to be a crucial aspect of Garland’s game, as it is for so many of the league’s most talented guards. In Game 1, he was two-of-four from downtown, which was fine. Garland started on the slower side, though, with the Knicks traps, and one would assume at times throughout games, New York is going to keep testing Garland’s patience with those.
However, the Cavaliers mixing things up by maybe funneling some more offense through Evan Mobley could give them an added wrinkle for stretches, and Donovan Mitchell on the ball can aid Garland, as it did at points in Game 1.
Having said that, ball-swings to hit him off of dribble handoffs can still help Garland get more involved, and in Game 2-on, one should expect to see those for him. In those sequences and/or at times after attacking closeouts, him getting to floaters could get him going, too, and eventually lead to meaningful lobs or dumpoffs to Jarrett Allen if Garland can draw Mitchell Robinson or Isaiah Hartenstein enough.
It wasn’t showcased in Game 1, however, Garland’s often demonstrated his great touch in the float game, to counter his deep shooting and step back game. Garland connected on 44.2 percent of his 163 driving floating shot attempts in the regular season, and 50.9 of his 53 driving floating bank shot attempts, per NBA.com’s shooting data.
This isn’t to suggest Garland is going to be taking floater after floater for his shots and pick-and-roll play, but there stretches it seemed in Game 1 where he appeared tentative. These looks could be factor into keeping him more engaged.
Knocking down a few these types of shots or push shots in the lane could potentially get him in a more consistent groove, and eventually, others could benefit from that, too. Playing off that, there could be skip feeds from him to shooters, such as Mitchell, Cedi Osman or Danny Green, if Osman/Green receive the opportunities. Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro will be in the conversation there as well, so we’ll see.
As we’ve mentioned here, though, if Garland can knock down some floaters earlier on in Game 2, it could pay dividends for him personally, and that threat could potentially open up others, including perimeter guys or cutters on the weak side.
Sometimes those kind of shots are what will be there in set playoff offense in games where scoring is down and it can be more difficult to get whistles. This isn’t saying the volume should be really high, however, those looks here and there can get offenses going and the other shots off that could be more open as defenses react.