The Cleveland Cavaliers’ season-opener against the Memphis Grizzlies did not go as the Cavs hoped in a 132-121 loss. On the road, Cleveland put up a late-game valiant effort as they trailed by 12 with about six minutes to play. With under two minutes to go, the game became a one-point contest. However, the Wine and Gold fell short as the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant had the answers all game long with his 37 points on 17/29 shooting. All night, the Cavs scratched and clawed to get back into the game. It was truly a back-and-forth game.
The rebounding and defensive departments did not go well for Cleveland. The main problem for the Cavs in the loss was the defensive performance. This is a squad that has invested in their defense with young pieces like Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Yet they struggled to stop Memphis, allowing 132 points while the Grizz shot 53% as a team. To make matters worse, the perimeter defense was lacking with the Grizzlies shooting 14/33 from three. The weak perimeter defense combined with giving up 70 points in the paint certainly caused the Cavaliers’ season-opening loss. Cleveland was also outrebounded 53 to 36 and gave up 13 offensive boards.
Not all was bad as the Offense Clicked
The concerns on the defensive end are real after one game. But it is only one game, after all, J.B. Bickerstaff will fix the issues with future rotational adjustments. The real question this season was about if the Cavs would improve on the offensive end. They were dead-last in points per game last season with only 103.8 points per game. In the Cavaliers’ season-opener, the offense looked much improved with their 121 points while shooting over 50%.
The ball was moving extremely well fueled by the Wine and Gold’s 38 assists. In addition, both Cleveland point guards distributed the ball well with Darius Garland posting 12 assists while Ricky Rubio dished out 10 assists. The ball movement led to many good looks at the rim. As a team, the Cavs also shot quite well from three at 14/38. Cedi Osman was one reason for the three-point shooting as he poured in 15 points and three triples himself. Also, Collin Sexton added two threes in his efficient 17-point outing.
The only Cavaliers that struggled on the offensive end were Garland, Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love. Garland started the game 1/8 with two points through three quarters. He flipped that with his blistering fourth quarter with three vital made threes, finishing with 13 points. Markkanen was signed to score, he did that in some capacity with 10 points but did not shoot well at 4/14. Both Garland and Markkanen should be fine going forward, but that may not be the case for Love. The longtime Cavs forward had only one made field goal with 4 points in his 17 minutes of play. When Love had the ball in his hands, the ball movement came to a halt. Love simply did not flow well with the offense, it will be something to watch going forward.
Allen and Mobley had Tremendous Games
The performance of both big men Allen and Mobley could be the biggest storyline out of the game. Allen showed he was worth his $100 million extension as he was perfect from the floor at 11/11 with 25 points. The newly-extended center played good defense as well coming up with three blocks and three steals. Allen will look to continue his high level of play on Friday versus the Hornets.
Well, eager Cavalier fans finally got to see the rookie Mobley debut in the Wine and Gold, and boy was it great. The USC product did everything on the floor shooting over 50% with 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block. Mobley was not shy at all when it came to shooting the ball, contrary to his passive mindset at times in the Summer League and preseason. He even shot six threes and converted two of them, 33% from three for Mobley in his first game is not too shabby. The versatility Mobley has on defense was already seen in full effect as he constantly altered opponents’ shots.
Making history on his first day.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) October 21, 2021
The tandem of Allen and Mobley holding down the Cleveland frontcourt clearly worked in game one. Instead of Sexton and Garland being the Cavaliers’ strong suit, this frontcourt has the chance to be a real show stopper. How great Mobley already looked was a pleasant surprise, and really, was the most encouraging result in the loss. The Cavalier season-opener was a loss but still had plenty of evidence, one of which was their relentless effort and fight, proving this team could be different this year. Cleveland’s next game will be at home against the Charlotte Hornets led by LaMelo Ball off his 31-point season-opening performance.
Featured image courtesy of Justin Ford/Getty Images
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