2 things Cleveland Cavaliers will need to beat Minnesota Timberwolves

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had an easy route to the NBA playoffs, despite what their third-best record might suggest.

Somehow, the Cavs still manage to steal win after win against the league's biggest threats amidst countless deflating injuries. With over half of their nightly rotation missing, the Cavaliers their division rivals in the Indiana Pacers, finding crucial contributions from their bench and 6MOY candidate Caris LeVert. If Clevelands wants to keep a promising place in the standings ahead of round one, they will need another big victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road.

The T-Wolves are facing their injury woes with both Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert absent from the team. If Naz Reid is also out of action with a Day-to-Day injury, Minnesota will be nearly non-existent in the post. Still, their young superstar Anthony Edwards has the potential to challenge the Cavs' defense every time down the court still. With Donovan Mitchell out of the picture, Cleveland will need to force Edwards into mistakes and not get into an offensive showdown.

Ant-Man has dropped 31 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists over his last five performances after starting March with a jaw-dropping block off the backboard to win a game against th aforementioned Pacers. The Timberwolves have been back-and-forth in a battle for the top spot in the West most this season, proving themselves to be a team not to take lightly. The Cavaliers cannot take their foot off the gas for a second against Minnesota, injuries or not. If the Cavs want to defend their homecourt, they will need to emphasize two key factors from the first tip to the final buzzer.

The Cavaliers need Darius Garland to take over

Offensively, the Cavaliers are running out of options. Mitchell's absence takes away most of the team's gravity, and Evan Mobley and Max Strus are not there to provide a helping hand. LeVert has done a great job so far, but the Cavs clearly look gassed by the end of regulation right now. Despite their best efforts, they need to trust in Darius Garland to have a statement game in order to come out with a dub.

Garland has had an undeniably confusing season. His highs have been spectactular, but his lows have been exhasuting. The young guard has spent his last two seasons battling freak injury after freak injury. If any overly-specific basketball analytics website is tracking hits to the face, Garland is surely in the top 5 over the last two years. His injuries have played a role in his inconsistency, but the Cavs will need to put their faith in a high game from DG the PG against the T-Wolves.

Although Minnesota has the league's best defensive rating (108.4), their backcourt is not the anchor of their system. This leaves room for Garland to blow past Mike Conley and Edwards with LeVert and Jarrett Allen as backup options if the defense collapses and commits too much help. In his last few contests, Garland has begun showing some promising comfort with Cleveland's new movement-centric offense, running around off-ball screens and running fast-paced two-man sets with Allen to find an open shot or pass into the post off a short roll.

Against the dismantled Timberwolves, Garland will have every opportunity to maximize this new system at his disposal. Conley will likely have trouble keeping up with the spry guard, forcing his teammates to switch into a mismatch that favors Garland. If the Cavaliers can push the Timberwolves' defense to its limits without KAT or Gobert, Darius should have an easy night.

Isaac Okoro's defense will be the deciding factor for Cleveland

Whenever the Cavaliers face off against a star guard or wing, there is no question regarding who will take the defensive assignment. Isaac Okoro has put together an All-Defense Team season and has become indispensable for Cleveland's success. The Cavs will go wherever Okoro's defense on Edwards can take them against the Timberwolves. With both of Ant-Man's best offensive teammates out of the picture for the night, Okoro's full attention will be set on locking down Edwards from having another spectacle.

Isaac Okoro has already put together several stellar defensive shows against proven veteran stars this season, but Edward's electric athleticism and speed will be a gruelling task. The rest of the Cavaliers will need to help Okoro maintain Edwards throughout the game, but Okoro will undoubtedly take the point-of-attack assignment and try to keep up all game.

In the wake of so many injuries, Okoro has re-assumed his starting role with the Cavs and taken on the responsibility of shutting down the opponent's best offensive player. From Damian Lillard to Jalen Brunson, Okoro has put the clamps on numerous stars this year and sent them home with poor shooting splits and an inefficient night. The Cavs will desperately need another lockdown night from the Auburn wing in order to steal the victory.

Okoro's defense will be the largest factor of the night. Without Okoro, the Cavs will have no consistent answer for the dynamic and young scorers on Minnesota.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' beginning to their short roadtrip against the Minnesota Timberwolves will tip off at 8:00pm Eastern Time on March 22 in Minnesota's Target Center. Local Cleveland fans can watch the game on Bally Sports Ohio.

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