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After their first test of adversity on the west coast, the Cleveland Cavaliers made a triumphant return to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this week, ruining Larry Nance Jr.'s homecoming and defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 107-104. They went on the road to Toronto to face the Raptors, where they won in a highly entertaining performance 102-101. Today, we'll be breaking down some key takeaways and observations from the third week of basketball for the Cavaliers prior to the team's Sunday evening matchup against the New York Knicks.
Dylan Windler's opportunity to prove his worth.
Cleveland's rotation is currently being ravaged by a nagging hamstring injury to Isaac Okoro and the NBA's health and safety protocols for Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen. That means Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff had to dig deeper into his roster all while leaning heavily on key rotation pieces. The latter, so far, rings true with players like Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley playing nearly 40 minutes per game in Cleveland's last two contests. The former does too, with undrafted forward Dean Wade starting in place of Markkanen and getting hefty minutes as well. It also means that oft-injured forward Dylan Windler has had some opportunities to shine as well.
Windler, who was drafted twenty-sixth overall in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Belmont, has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his career. In theory, Windler gives exactly what the Cavaliers need – a bigger wing that can slash, rebound, defend and shoot three-pointers. The last is the most important, as Cleveland is one of the more mediocre three-point shooting teams in the league. But, unfortunately, due to Windler's injury history, the Cavaliers cannot reliably rely on the former Bruin on a night-to-night basis.
But, for now, Cleveland has no choice but to lean on Windler due to their litany of rotation issues. So far, he's looked inconsistent but that's to be expected after hardly playing nearly three years into his professional career. Statistically, Windler is averaging 6.5 points on 80.0% shooting to go along with 0.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. It's not much, but it's a start for Windler to hopefully rehabbing his way back to the NBA hardwood.
It will take time for Windler to grow comfortable on the court again. It also will take time for the Cavaliers to become comfortable in saying Windler is available on any given night. Thankfully, the silver lining to this multitude of injuries is that both are possible. Having Windler out there gives a chance for him to prove his worth to the organization, and considering they picked up his contract option for next season it seems like the team isn't ready to give up on him. Until we have more tangible data there isn't much to glean from his time on the floor. Come back next week for that.
On Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Toronto Raptors and the NBA got the first of hopefully many battles between top rookies Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes.
The future of the NBA was on full display in Toronto
In what should've been a Friday night matchup on ESPN, Cleveland crossed the border into Toronto to take on the Raptors. The reason it should've been nationally televised is that this was a fun, scrappy game between two young teams. Both the Cavaliers and the Raptors are going to be in slashing and clawing their way for a playoff spot at the end of the season so the executives at Disney dropped the ball on this one.
There's also the fact that this game featured two of the league's top rookies in Cleveland's Evan Mobley and Toronto's Scottie Barnes. Mobley, who was selected third-overall, finished the night with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks for the victorious Cavaliers. Barnes, who was selected fourth-overall, meanwhile, chipped in 14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks for the Raptors. Seeing these two franchise cornerstones go head to head made this game delightful. Sprinkle in the fact that both teams are loaded with young talent, and it puts into perspective how bright the future of the NBA will be.
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It's also interesting to think that how the Cavaliers and the Raptors, the likely future of the league, had fairly similar trajectories. Both franchises are recently removed from winning their first championship, with both teams best players heading to Los Angeles. Instead of completely tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch, both Cleveland and Toronto instead retooled and slowly added talent organically and are slowly progressing towards becoming forces in the Eastern Conference again.
Granted, there's no LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard to take the stakes to even greater heights. But, how both the Cavaliers and the Raptors have rebuilt is highly impressive considering their market status in the grand scheme of the NBA. The future is bright for both teams and hopefully, they have more games like this Friday night tilt going forward. Also, hopefully, it's on national TV as well – the world needs to know the East still runs through Cleveland.
The Cleveland Charge made their Wolstein Center debut Saturday night, where they fell to the Motor City Cruise 140-117.
The other professional Cleveland basketball team made their debut this weekend.
The Cleveland Charge, the G-League affiliate of the Cavaliers, who called nearby Canton home for the last decade, made their official Cleveland debut Saturday night at the Wolstein Center. The Charge were defeated 140-117 by the Motor City Cruise, the G-League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, in front of 3,689 fans taking a part in the team's history.
Cleveland was led by Kyle Guy’s 26 points on 11-of-22 from the field with eight rebounds, eight assists and two blocks in 39 minutes. Malik Newman hit 10-of-18 shots and 4-of-8 three-point attempts to net 25 points in 34 minutes. Justin James added 19 points on 8-of-11 from the field in 25 minutes. Charles Matthews came off the bench to score 11 points and grab nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Tacko Fall and R.J. Nembhard, players both on two-way contracts with the Cavaliers, did not play. Fall is currently with the main club in New York while Nembhard just didn't get an opportunity yet.
The Cruise were paced by Saben Lee’s game-high 42 points on 14-of-24 from the field with eight boards and eight assists in 35 minutes. Derrick Walton Jr. posted a double-double of 15 points and 12 boards with seven assists in 36 minutes. On assignment from Detroit, Luka Garza scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 34 minutes. With the game tied 25-25 and 3:59 left in the first quarter, Motor City rolled off a 12-1 run to end the quarter to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
After the loss, the Charge hit the road for a division matchup with the Wisconsin Herd, the G-Leauge affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks, on Monday, November 8 at 8:00 p.m. – Charge fans can listen live on The Gambler 1350 AM and watch the game live on ClevelandCharge.com. The Charge return to The Land for a back-to-back against the Windy City Bulls, the G-League affiliate of the Chicago Bulls, beginning on Thursday, November 11.
If Cavaliers fans, or just fans of basketball in general, want to get out and support Cleveland's other professional team – they should. First off, tickets are cheap, something the team takes pride in, with seats along center court maxing out at $14 Thursday against the Bulls. Not only that but there's a good chance Fall, the tallest player in the league, will be playing as well which is well worth the price of admission as well.
Finally, more than anything this is the future of Cavaliers basketball and basketball in its purest form as well. Charge head coach Dan Geriot is making his head coaching debut after spending nearly half a decade on the main club's bench. His vision is to build a carbon copy of what the Cavaliers are doing at the next level so that if any of his players are called up, they're ready. So, come check out the Charge when they return on Thursday and if you happen to see me there, come say hi. I'll be covering them a lot more closely going forward.
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