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Cleveland Cavaliers: Finding Ways to Win Through Adversity

Cleveland Cavaliers win through adversity

The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to impress after grabbing a win through adversity over Portland by a score of 107-104. The Cavs were already without Isaac Okoro due to injury and Kevin Love going through COVID protocols. Cleveland’s roster took another blow prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Trail Blazers with Lauri Markkanen now going through COVID protocols as well. That is three major contributors missing with one (Markkanen) being a starter. J.B. Bickerstaff had the Cavs fighting hard again with tremendous effort, leading to another win.

If that wasn’t adversity, then what is? Okoro is major for this team’s perimeter defense. Love has actually played well at times and has good effort this season. To make matters worse, Markkanen was coming off his best games in the Wine and Gold against the Lakers and Hornets. Going into the home game vs. the Blazers, the Cavs had to tweak their starting lineup by placing Dean Wade at the small forward spot. Bickerstaff stuck with the big lineup and it worked yet again with other Cavaliers stepping up in a big way.

Key Contributors in the Win vs. Blazers

First off, Wade played a solid game, which was impressive since he has only averaged barely over 10 minutes per game. The third-year forward impacted the game in several ways: seven points, three rebounds, two assists, a +10 plus/minus and solid defense. The performance of the wings Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler was another much-needed contribution with players unavailable. Osman and Windler were instant offense from the bench that provided ideal spacing with their three-point shooting. Windler, the second-year forward, provided 13 points while shooting 4/5 and a perfect 3/3 from three-point land. Osman contributed in a similar fashion with 12 points with all his shot attempts coming from three, finishing 4/7.

The Cavaliers through eight games had a good start at 4-4, but one of the largest problems was the underperformance from Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. That completely changed against the Blazers with the starting backcourt on fire. Garland poured in 19 points shooting 5/6 from three while also dishing 10 assists. Sexton gave the Cavs great energy with his highly-efficient 8/13 shooting night leading to 21 points.

The Combination of Allen and Mobley is Special

The frontcourt of the future in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley was great again, more of the same here. Allen was huge with 24 points and 17 rebounds. The rook Mobley gave the Cavs another double-double with 11 points and boards, becoming the first Cavs rookie to post back-to-back double-doubles since 2014.

The versatility on the defense from Allen and Mobley was amazing yet again. Both big men had the opportunity to guard Damian Lillard one-on-one on the perimeter during the last 1:30 of the fourth quarter. Lillard was stymied both times, shooting a difficult look.

With only eight Cavaliers appearing in the game vs. Portland, it was an all-around team performance. Even with Ricky Rubio shooting 0/7, he provided seven assists and kept the ball moving on offense. Cleveland fought through adversity and came away with another very good win, in which they led for most of the contest. New faces, like Windler and Wade, taking advantage of substantial minutes brings up an interesting aspect—could Bickerstaff alter rotations when everyone is back?

Bickerstaff could change rotations after Blazers win

At this point, Osman has to keep playing since he has been unstoppable from three recently. In addition, Windler rarely saw the court eight games in and provided a nice lift off the bench. Cleveland needs better three-point shooting, Osman and Windler provided that. Bickerstaff cannot deny these two playing time if they can help space the floor in such an impactful way.

Sexton, Garland and Markkanen are capable three-point shooters who should see their averages rise after a rough shooting start to the year. If Osman and Windler are threats that can consistently provide knockdown shooting, the Cavalier offense has the chance to become lethal with the perfect balance.

The inside presence of Allen, Mobley, Love and Markkanen is there. Garland, Sexton, Okoro and Rubio have slashing abilities. The ball movement and off-ball cutting have been great so far after the coaching staff went to a motion offense approach this season. The Cavs also have a very effective pick-and-roll/pop with bigs like Allen and Mobley setting screens. Effective three-point shooting from Osman and Windler lingering along the perimeter could make this offense extremely fluid and well-rounded.

Bickerstaff and the Cavs organization certainly know they could use more shooting from outside. Seeing how Osman and Windler continue to shoot with player absences will be a key going forward. Bickerstaff may have to change rotations and redistribute minutes if this kind of shooting continues from the wings Osman and Windler.

The Cavs’ expedition for progress in the rebuild rolls on Friday in Toronto vs. the Raptors at 7 PM EST.

Featured image courtesy of Jason Miller/Getty Images

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