Cleveland Cavaliers notch their first victory of the preseason
The young All-Star duo of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell finally came together to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first victory following back-to-back losses in the preseason via a hard-earned 105-99 win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
After coming out flat in their second consecutive loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Cavs once again started out slow early before erupting in the second quarter to go ahead by as much as 18 points. Things got a little dicey after halftime as the Hawks threatened to steal back the lead, but the home team did just enough to thwart them in the endgame.
Donovan Mitchell led all scorers in the game with 24 points to go with eight rebounds as Darius Garland tallied a double-double of 23 points and 12 assists as the duo also led the team in minutes played. Meanwhile, Isaac Okoro, who started in place of Caris LeVert (rest), also had a massive impact in the win.
Not only did the third-year swingman add 16 points off a 78 percent clip from the field, but he also did the most damage on the defensive end of the floor, helping limit Hawks star Trae Young to just 14 points off a dismal 3-for-17 shooting.
The Cavs will continue searching for their new identity
Joining Evan Mobley (ankle sprain) and Kevin Love (knee) on the inactive list was recent standout Dean Wade, who suffered an apparent ankle injury of his own in their last outing, as well as Caris LeVert who sat out the game to rest and allow other players in the rotation to get some burn on the floor.
Cleveland’s on-ball defense was much improved against the Hawks. Not only was Trae Young limited, but so was Atlanta’s other All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to just 7-for-19 shooting from the field.
Thanks in no small part to new Cavalier Raul Neto, and resident ‘Junkyard Dawgs’ Okoro and Lamar Stevens on the assignment. Even Garland deserves a ton of credit on the defensive end against the usually scorching Young.
With their super-tall lineup becoming unviable with Lauri Markkanen being sent off to Utah in the trade that brought in Mitchell, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been working on a seemingly completely different approach offensively. With the absence of Mobley and Love, the Cavs did the inverse by starting Stevens at the four.
With the aim to become serious contenders in an increasingly-competitive Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers wants to find a viable long-term scheme coming into opening night. Next stop in the preseason: on the road against the Orlando Magic on October 15th.