The Cleveland Cavaliers are off to their best start in five years, but it was the strong finish to their last game that has everyone talking.
The Cavaliers recorded their sixth win in seven games after rallying from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. The teams reconvene in Cleveland for the rematch on Monday night.
“It was the mental and physical toughness,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after his team’s 91-89 victory on Saturday. “It’s the bond that our guys have built to not want to disappoint one another. We keep talking about chemistry, bonding and belief in one another. It was on full display (Saturday). That’s the only way you can explain it. There’s no basketball reason we should have won that game. But there was a collective spirit that refused to allow us to lose that game.”
Cleveland appeared to do its best to “lose that game” after scoring a season-worst nine points during the first quarter. Boston, in turn, built a 72-53 lead late in the third quarter before the Cavaliers countered by scoring 24 of the next 28 points.
Darius Garland capped his 22-point performance by sinking a pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We have a lot of heart,” said Garland, who averages a team-leading 16.8 points per game. “Everybody’s bought in. We showed a lot of fight (on Saturday). Deep in a hole from the tip. Just showing the dog mentality that we have. That’s what we’re standing by.”
Garland also is standing by his budding relationship with rookie Evan Mobley, who collected 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks on Saturday.
“We’re starting to jell a little bit more,” Garland said of his connection with the third overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. “It’s starting to become fun.”
Boston likely didn’t have much fun as it saw its bid for its first three-game winning streak of the season go by the boards.
“There’s no frustration. We lost. It happens,” said Dennis Schroder, who finished with a game-high 28 points. “You can lose sometimes. Sometimes you blow a lead and then you lose a game. It happens. I came back from minus-26 before. It happens.”
Jayson Tatum finished with 21 points despite making just 8 of 22 shots from the floor — including 1 of 8 from 3-point range — and committing a team-high six turnovers.
“Jayson showed frustration on his shots, but you’ve got to play through that,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said of Tatum, who averages 23.5 points per game. “He had some turnovers late — some sloppy ones — but he has to find a way to affect the game in a positive way when his shot isn’t falling.”
Robert Williams III recorded his third consecutive double-double after his 12-point, 16-rebound performance. He also had three blocks and three assists.
“We know exactly what we’re coming to play against again on Monday — the crowd and the players,” Williams said. “So obviously, we’ll be waiting on that for sure.”
–Field Level Media