CLEVELAND, Ohio — Evan Mobley wasn’t going to let it happen again.
Playing a trailing opponent for the second night in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers did not squander this opportunity, beating the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks, 114-102. The win snaps Cleveland’s two-game losing streak, and Mobley’s fingerprints were all over the win.
Some 24 hours after their most embarrassing loss of the season to the Golden State Warriors, a night Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff admonished his team for disrespecting the game and overlooking an unskilled opponent. Without sharpshooter Stephen Curry and five other players, the Cavs took Saturday’s matchup more seriously.
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There is no emotional disappointment this time. Fire emanated from the Cleveland sophomore phenom.
With a focus, determination and aggression that the Cavs have been trying to get out of him more often, the 21-year-old Mobley looked like the version of the player Bickerstaff said was capable of one day dominating the league. have asked to imitate Milwaukee superstar Antetokounmpo.
Perhaps the transformation has started earlier than expected.
Mobley scored a career-high 38 points on hyper-efficient 19-of-27 field goals to go with nine rebounds and three assists in 38 riveting minutes.
It is his ninth straight game scoring double figures. He is only the fourth player in franchise history aged 21 or younger to record 38 or more points in a game, joining LeBron James, Collin Sexton and Kyrie Irving. Mobley’s 19 field goals are tied with James for the most by a Cavs player 21 and under. He is also the fourth NBA player since 1979, when the 3-point line was adopted, to record at least 38 points without a single 3-pointer or free throw. NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon was the last to do so in 1997. Alex English and George Gervin also accomplished that remarkable feat.
Teammates don’t call Mobley a unicorn for nothing.
“It was just one of those days,” Mobley explained humbly. “I definitely always have that confidence in myself to go out there and do these kinds of things. I just have to go out there and do them.”
After the best half of his career, scoring 18 points and helping the Cavs build a three-point lead at halftime, Mobley raised the bar even higher in the second half with a 20-point eruption, including 14 points in the game. last room. . He scored 12 of the Cavs’ first 15 points to lead off the fourth, as his career night helped Cleveland hold off the energetic Bucks, who were without Antetokounmpo (knee pain) or forward Khris Middleton. .
“That’s exactly what I want to see from the 4,” All-Star point guard Darius Garland said, referring to Mobley’s jersey number. “He’s aggressive, he just finds his pocket and does what he does best. I would love to watch it literally every night. It was very necessary.”
There have been flashes of brilliance from Mobley, exciting moments that have members of the organization calling him “Fourth Quarter Evan” or “The One.”
On Saturday night, he put it all together. She lived up to those nicknames.
“I think this is what he’s capable of,” Bickerstaff explained. “Sometimes it is difficult for the big ones to get what is theirs. It’s hard for big guys who are naturally selfless to get their due. Evan is a great basketball player. He plays the game the right way. He doesn’t force things because people say he should shoot more or score more. He’s a basketball purist in that sense. He was aggressive. He was assertive. He had attack mentality”.
Garland added 21 points and 10 assists. Caris LeVert, starting in place of leading scorer Donovan Mitchell for the third straight game due to a nagging groin injury, had 13 points and seven assists. Cedi Osman matched him with 13 from the bench. Jarrett Allen finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The Cavs shot 55.8% from the field and 31.8% from 3-point range.
Milwaukee was led by Jrue Holiday, who chipped in 28 points to finish with 10 assists. Regular sixth man Bobby Portis got off to a good start, scoring 23 points and 11 rebounds.
After trailing by three points late in the first quarter, the Cavs opened the second on a 17-2 run, building a 12-point lead and holding control for most of the final three quarters. They gave up the lead a couple of times briefly early in the fourth quarter, but they responded to all of Milwaukee’s shoving. The Cavs led for 23 of the 24 minutes of the second half.
“There was a higher purpose that we needed to play with and focus on tonight,” Bickerstaff said. “Seeing our guys bounce back from where they were last night to tonight, I’m extremely proud of them and how they grew tonight as a team.”
Hours before kickoff, Bickerstaff returned to the arena and said he was still not over Friday’s slip-up. He needed to see how Saturday was going first.
You can get over it now. It seems the Cavs learned their lesson.
“We know we didn’t play our best last night,” Garland said. “I don’t even want to talk about last night because that was in the past, but we went out and ran the business tonight. That’s what they asked us to do. We knew literally this morning and after the ride we had today, we knew we had to go find one tonight. I’m glad we went out and fought at a high level, played the way we usually play, or tried to play, and came out successful.”
Versatile forward Dean Wade played his first game in about seven weeks due to shoulder and ankle injuries. He managed 10 minutes, without scoring or attempting a shot.
The Cavaliers honored franchise legend Anderson Varejao, now officially retired and a full-time member of the organization as a player development consultant and global ambassador. A moving video tribute, which brought Varejao to tears, featured thoughts from former teammates, coaches and president Dan Gilbert. Surrounded by some of the best players on the team and several members of his family, Varejao delivered a heartfelt speech, shared stories from his career and recognized the many people who helped him in his NBA career.
The Brazil native was known for his non-stop hustle, loose hairstyle, and engaging personality.
“A guy who worked hard,” Varejao said when asked how he wanted to be remembered. “A guy who came out of nowhere and came to the best basketball in the world. Someone who gave everything.”
Until next time
The Cavs will open a three-game road trip against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm
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