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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Darius Garland efforts are in vain for the Cavs in an ugly loss to the Timberwolves

Tough stretch for the Cavs.

Exiting the All-Star break and with the playoffs on the horizon, things have been and remain turbulent for the Cleveland Cavaliers – especially for star guard Darius Garland.

With no Donovan Mitchell or Evan Mobley continually unavailable lately, the Cavs have continually turned to Garland to shoulder the load offensively. But, in a 104-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garland was the sole focus of the NBA’s top overall defense. Hounded by lockdown defender Jaden McDaniel nearly minute for minute, Garland finished with 19 points on 8 of 21 shooting and went a ghastly 0 of 6 from three-point range.

For context, Garland scored 10 of those points in the fourth quarter, as Cleveland was trying to mount a comeback, and it felt like a brief moment for the Cavs could steal another win over the vaunted Timberwolves. But, it was all for naught, as Minnesota ground Garland and Cleveland’s offensive efforts to a halt. This was all while the Timberwolves exploited the undermanned Cavs, executing their offense to put Garland’s efforts away for good.

“They’re a good defensive team, so give them credit. But I thought we just got stagnant,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said following the loss. “There wasn’t a lot of movement. I just thought we weren’t attack-minded enough to get into the paint and create some sort of chaos and create good looks for one another.”

“It was a little bit of an ugly game. Two defensive teams battling,” Caris LeVert said. “I think they just did a better job in the fourth quarter of executing and getting good shots. I think the ball got sticky in the second half and it was tough to score on their defense. I think they did a good job of swarming the ball. They made it tough on us.”

Mind you, not all the blame falls on Darius Garland and it’s wholly unrealistic to expect him to do everything on offense, covering for the absence of Mitchell, Mobley, Dean Wade, Max Strus and others. Sure, it’s fair to expect more from a star player like Garland to handle responsibilities when the Cavs are undermanned. But, when there’s no shooting, no movement or no weaponry to help Cleveland build momentum, it starts to feel like a fool’s errand.

“I think it’s on everybody at this point,” Bickerstaff said. “Everybody has to step up and do a little bit more. We can’t ask one person to fill the void of all the guys we are missing. It’s everybody having to tick up a little more.”

Nothing has come easy for Cleveland on offense during this stretch. Overall, the Cavs are 7-10 exiting the All-Star break and are 6-9 without Mitchell, who has been dealing with a bothersome knee injury. More worryingly, while Cleveland has only scored more than 100 points 14 times in this 17 post-All-Star break stretch, their defense has failed to contain the opposition – allowing 109.8 points per game, which is eighteenth-best in the NBA.

The offense, despite being undermanned, is still averaging 107.3 points per game since exiting the All-Star break. While that 2.5-point differential doesn’t seem like much, having only the eighteenth-best offense and the eighteenth-best defense isn’t a recipe for success, especially if you’re the Cavs who pride themselves on defense.

So, while it’s easy to point fingers at Darius Garland for most of Cleveland’s failures, it doesn’t paint the full picture. As Bickerstaff noted, it takes a collective for the Cavs to function on either end but, when they’re down so many integral pieces, they’re just going up the river without a paddle.

Evan Dammarell_headshot

About the Author

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland, including the Cavs, right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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