Despite crucial injuries to Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been hanging tough, and even without those guys, this team has answered the call.
For Cleveland, the ball has been moving, bodies have been moving, the group has prioritized getting its three-pointers up in bunches, and players such as Isaac Okoro, Craig Porter Jr. and Sam Merrill have all stepped up. With their group effort, the Cavaliers have won nine of their last 12 games, and in that time, Cleveland is ninth in offensive rating and second in threes made per contest.
Getting downhill is always going to be key off of the perimeter game, though, and somewhat along those lines regarding the interior play, Jarrett Allen has been lighting it up. In Allen's past 10 games, he's posted splits of 19.0 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, and he's had double-doubles in his last eight games.
To begin January, Allen's had 17.2 points and 14.0 boards per contest, and that included a 29-point, 16-rebound outing in a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. He would have 12 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals in Cleveland's win over the Brooklyn Nets in Paris on Thursday from there.
Allen has been on an absolute tear, and playing like a man on a mission for the Cavs.
Allen has been playing outstanding basketball for the Cavaliers, delivering on both ends of the floor in a big way.
Offensively, Allen has been playing to his strengths, and then some. He's been a master in clean-up duty, which has led to tons of putbacks, and his rolling expertise and dunker spot activity has resulted in quality interior looks. He's also taken advantage during mismatch situations, where he's converted inside with push shots, or has used power to get lay-ins/dunks or generate free throws.
Allen's interior presence has meshed well for Cleveland and has helped the Cavs' offensive balance with shooters on the floor with him, along with shot creators such as Donovan Mitchell and/or Caris LeVert. As he's gotten more experience with Mitchell, Allen's chemistry with him has improved, and when he's gotten interior feeds, Allen has typically kept the ball elevated over defenders, where he's finished with touch or with urgency, leading to dunks.
Additionally, it's been encouraging to see Allen keep getting better as a tertiary ball movement option. He's averaged 3.9 assists over the last 13 games, and a career-high 3.0 dimes per outing on the season.
Of course, Cleveland's injuries to playmakers will factor into those increased assist splits for Allen, but he's shown further improvements from over the last couple of seasons in making plays for others, and he's seemingly handled pressure gradually better.
On the other end of the floor, Allen's continually been a difference-maker on the interior, with his length and rim protection instincts.
With Cleveland being without the services of Mobley over what's already been an extended period, Allen has helped keep this group together on that end enough to generate runs, and he's affected so many shots in this stretch.
He's posted stock numbers of 2.2 combined steals and blocks per contest over the last 13 games, and he's averaged just 1.9 fouls over that span. Given what Allen provides, and how he doesn't make business decisions with his rim protection/deterrence, and that shouldn't be discounted, as far as the minimal fouling, particularly without Mobley with him.
Plus, Allen has kept progressing as a switch big. This isn't suggesting he's going to be Mobley on the perimeter, per se, but Allen has gotten better and better with his discipline when needed on the perimeter, and he's often done a great job with his contests of perimeter threats, and has closed with length and high hands.
Now, when the Cavaliers get their big guns back, with Garland's return reportedly pretty soon within the next handful of games it appears, Allen's splits are naturally going to decrease. And when Mobley does come back for Cleveland, the Cavs will have to figure out how they'll stylistically re-adjust, and/or if they'll play Mobley and Allen for long stretches again, weighing offense and defense and team flow.
However, even with Allen often still suggested as a hypothetical trade candidate it seems, regardless of injuries in mind, it's still obvious that Allen holds a ton of value for this Cleveland squad. He's making a compelling All-Star case, and his flurry of double-doubles has been big for the Wine and Gold.