Cavs’ Darius Garland has to simplify things a bit, then rhythm will come

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images /

The Cleveland Cavaliers looked to be turning things around after their second half at the Indiana Pacers last Friday in a near-comeback and they had a quality win against the Golden State Warriors after that on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers did not come out with nearly the performance they would’ve hoped for on Wednesday night at the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder put up 128 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was unstoppable with 43 points, and he lived at the free throw line.

Props go to the Thunder, who are a promising young team. But, even with Cleveland’s issues in that game, the Cavaliers were still in the game down the stretch, to some degree at least; Cleveland just couldn’t get over the hump in the 128-120 L.

One of the concerning things from that game, and in other games, has been Darius Garland’s relatively rough go of it early on this season. He’s had 6.8 assists per outing, but has also averaged 6.0 turnovers in four appearances.

He missed four games due to a hamstring strain, and it’s understandable that he’d have some problems, but his giveaways have really been disappointing at times. Some are overreacting to Garland’s play, and coming off that injury, which was originally sustained in preseason, there was going to be some rust.

On the plus side, he did have nine assists and made some impressive plays at OKC, as he always does as a distributor and scorer, and sooner than later, he’ll be back to being the big-time player he is. Part of the issue for Cleveland, though, was Garland forcing some things, as has played out at points in other outings, and there were giveaways at some inopportune times.

Granted, Garland has not seemed in-rhythm, he just has to not seemingly press it.

Overreacting to Garland’s start is a bit much, he just has to potentially simplify things for a little while. As he settles in, his rhythm will come.

In that Thunder game, Cleveland had 20 turnovers as a team, and Garland had eight of those. For the game, Oklahoma City had 30 points off of those turnovers from Cleveland.

Obviously, teams aren’t going to be in great position to win games when they have 20 giveaways, and the Thunder took advantage of those. Some of those were generated by the Thunder, but plenty of them were seemingly self-inflicted and questionable decisions by the Cavaliers. Garland was also hardly the other Cav with some silly giveaways.

As was previously mentioned, though, Garland had eight of those Cavs turnovers on Wednesday night, where several of those were instances he was seemingly trying to fit dishes into tight windows, or from sequences where looks were trying to hit skips over a lot of traffic. Credit goes to OKC for having high hands, and seeking those, and they’re a young team that’s disruptive defensively.

Pertaining to Garland, for a bit, however, the Cavaliers should be trying to get things churning and moving the ball around the horn more consistently earlier on in games, to ease some pressure on Garland as an initiator. In his three games since his return, he’s had 18 turnovers.

Some of the giveaways in recent games have come from him trying to get interior looks in, or to advantage-creating skip passes, and it’s easy to see what he’s reading out from opposing defenses. He’s trying to generate good looks, he just has to be a bit more patient in games. If he lets some things come to him from making quicker decisions earlier on in games, and takes what defenses give him first, that can then open up some what might originally may be tougher passes later.

Of course, this isn’t suggesting he isn’t going to have a bunch of the ball in his hands, but if Garland initiates productive movement early in possessions, it will pay off for the Cavs as a group. This team is getting healthier, Donovan Mitchell can always help initiate, and guys like Max Strus, Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert usually make good decisions themselves, and if Garland keeps moving, he can get quality looks as a shooter in mid-clock scenarios himself, which is good offense.

The gist is, if Garland just simplifies things somewhat, and makes quicker decisions, that should help him and the team establish more of a rhythm in games, and he and the squad will be able to settle in more, instead of having to play catch-up.

He did turn it over against the Warriors, but he settled in, was getting to the free throw line and was initiating productive ball-swings for guys like Mitchell and Georges Niang, and interior feeds off that came. That eventually played out in the Pacers game as well, and prior to the OKC game, Garland seemed to be ready to get back on track.

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While Garland hasn’t gotten off to the start one would’ve hoped for, he’s still finding his rhythm after missing time, and given all that he can do for Cleveland, this stuff shouldn’t last and nor should his three-point shooting woes. He’s too talented for these issues to linger. Having said that, with Ty Jerome having been out and uncertainty regarding Ricky Rubio, it wouldn’t hurt for Cleveland to potentially bring in another veteran lead guard for some primary playmaking help for stretches.