Motoring to a W: Two takeaways from the Cavs’ win against the Pistons

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

It took them 12 games, but the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally won two games in a row for the first time this season.

The Cavs picked up a key victory in the NBA’s In-Season Tournament with a 108-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons Friday night. The Cavs were in control for most of the game even without their superstar Donovan Mitchell, who was nursing a hamstring injury. This allowed Darius Garland to break out of his early-season rut. Garland finished with his best scoring output of the season with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting.

He was aggressive all evening, whether it was attacking the paint, creating for others, or constantly keeping the defense guessing. Garland was flanked by Evan Mobley and Max Strus, who both had 18 points apiece. Their offense was balanced overall, as they had six players in double figures. Here are two takeaways from the Cavs’ first In-Season Tournament win:

1. Craig Porter Jr. is the backup PG the Cavs need

It’s nice to see a guy with the last name Porter flourish with the Cavs for a change. Forget the G-League, Craig Porter Jr. looks ready to produce now.

In 16 minutes off the bench, Porter had 12 points, three rebounds, five assists and a steal with zero turnovers. Whenever he came in to give Garland a breather, he kept the Cavs offense afloat with his steady hand, as the Cavs were a +14 in Porter’s minutes. This was very key, especially on a night when the Cavs were missing their best player in Donovan Mitchell.

Porter showed what he could do in Summer League, where he was a huge reason why the Cavs won the summer league championship. His playmaking, defending, and his basketball IQ are a huge reason why he is the perfect backup point guard for the Cavs.

The Cavs have been searching for an answer at that spot for the entire season. They were supposed to lean on Ricky Rubio, and Ty Jerome to fill that void, but other factors have prevented those two from hitting the court. Rubio is still away from the team, and Jerome has been out for the better part of the season due to an ankle sprain. Even when those two come back, Porter should be in the mix to be the main floor general off the bench. He has untapped potential, and he is only going to get better as he continues to learn the game and earn more opportunities off the bench.

2. Evan Mobley continues to figure it out

Evan Mobley has completely changed his mentality and physicality this season. He is tied for ninth in the league with seven double-doubles in 12 games. It took him 21 games to reach seven double-doubles last season. Mobley looks a lot more aggressive in the paint, and has taken the challenge to dominate in there every night.

Mobley has also scored at least 13 points in six straight games and only has one game below 10 points this season. He has been a lot more consistent finishing at the rim and through contact as well. He looks stronger, and the hard work he put in over the offseason is paying off.

The third-year big has also improved as a playmaker, as he is averaging three assists per game, and has had at least five assists in three games so far this season. He didn’t have his third game with five assists until December 14th last season.

Mobley may not become a floor spacer or a 20-point-per-game scorer, but his evolution this season is very clear. He is becoming more consistent in the paint, an area where he needs to dominate if he isn’t going to be on the perimeter.

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It was a much-needed morale boost for the Cavs, as they won consecutive games for the first time this season. They have a tough stretch coming up that includes games against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers. We will see if the Wine and Gold can keep the good times rolling.