Game Night Observations: Mobley's dominance and a big win
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Danny Cunningham covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for 850 ESPN Cleveland and thelandondemand.comOn Friday evening, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff mentioned that he thought there was a version of Evan Mobley on the way that was going to be just as dominant offensively as the second-year player has been on the defensive end of the floor this season.
On Saturday night, that version of Mobley showed up in Cleveland’s 114-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Offensively speaking, the game against the Bucks was the best of Mobley’s young career. He finished with a career-high 38 points without the help of any made 3-pointers or free throws. Something that had been done just fourth other times in NBA history since the 3-point line was implemented into the rules.
The best way to describe Mobley’s performance is by simply calling it dominant. He was able to get wherever he wanted on the floor on the offensive end. The Bucks couldn’t contain the Cavs off the dribble, which forced help onto guards off of Mobley.
Milwaukee tried a number of different things defensively against Mobley and the Cavs, and none of them worked. Center Brook Lopez spent time defending him, as did Bobby Portis and others. No one had a chance to slow down Mobley.
That’s how it can be when he’s aggressive on that end of the floor. He may not be someone that can go out and average 38 points, but he’s more than capable of having nights like this one on a frequent basis. When that aggression is there from Mobley, he’s hard for anyone to stop. The next part of his development for the Cavs is to bring that out of him more often than just in the fourth quarters of games.
“That's exactly what I want to see from [Mobley],” Darius Garland said after the game. “Him being aggressive, him just finding his pocket and doing what he does best.
“Whenever he has a mismatch, I want him to tell me, like, get him the ball. I want him to get a little bit more angrier when he doesn't get it. When he doesn't get like 15 attempts a night, at least. I just want him to be more aggressive and want him to find himself just being more involved in the offense because he does a lot for us on our defensive end so we gotta give him the ball on the offensive end so he can make plays for others and just do what he does.”
Those days will come for him in the future. He’s too good for them not to. Mobley’s lack of stat-stuffing nights offensively doesn’t mean that the growth for him isn’t occurring. For a young player like him it can be difficult to impact winning, and that’s something he’s done since he first stepped on an NBA floor. When a player like Mobley possesses that trait, everything eventually falls into place.
The Cavaliers as an organization have visions of what Mobley can look like on both ends of the floor. He’s certainly closer to that version of himself on the defensive end than he is the offensive end of the floor right now. But when Bickerstaff mentioned that he thinks Mobley is going to dominate the NBA on both ends of the floor, he wasn’t the only one that believed it.
From Bickerstaff, to members of the front office, to guys on the roster, it’s a common thought. The most important person who believes it, however, is Mobley himself.
“I feel like I definitely believe that, have that confidence, for sure,” Mobley said on Saturday night. “It's just staying as consistent as possible and actually doing it.”
The more often Mobley has nights like he did on Saturday, the better off the Cavs will be in the present and the future.
Breaking the tie
Saturday night was the fourth and final matchup between the Cavs and the Bucks this season. The Bucks won the first two games that were played in Milwaukee and the Cavaliers won the second set of games in Cleveland. A Milwaukee win on Saturday night would have meant that the Bucks held the tiebreaker over the Cavaliers for playoff seeding, should the two teams finish with the same record.
The Cavs win on Saturday night puts them in strong position to hold the tiebreaker now.
When two teams are tied in the NBA, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head matchup. With this one being even, that means it moves onto another data point. For two teams in the same division, which the Cavs and Bucks are, it matters what the winning percentage against the rest of the division is.
That’s a category the Cavaliers currently lead in. After Saturday night, the Cavaliers are 8-3 against Central Division foes, while the Bucks are just 5-4. Each team will play 16 total games against its divisional opponents, so this is something that certainly isn’t over to this point.
With that said, schedule-wise the Cavaliers do only have one more road game against a team within the Central (at Indiana Feb. 5). The other four games (two vs. Detroit, one vs. Indiana, one vs. Chicago) all take place at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Those factors all increase the likelihood of the Cavs holding the tiebreaker against the Bucks.
Should the two teams finish with identical records inside the Central, the next category to decide things would be the winning percentage within the Eastern Conference. As of now, this is something that also favors the Cavs. They sit at 18-8 against East foes while the Bucks are 17-13.
Should a tiebreaker be needed at the end of the year, the Cavs are in a good place, but there’s a long way to go until that may matter.
Welcome back Anderson Varejao
The Cavaliers had a bit of an extended halftime on Saturday as the organization honored former power forward Anderson Varejao with a ceremony. Varejao recently was brought on full-time with the team as a Player Development Consultant and Global Ambassador after playing in the NBA for parts of 14 seasons (13 of them in Cleveland).
Varejao’s halftime ceremony featured a tribute video played for him as well as appearances by Cavaliers legends Austin Carr, Campy Russell, Mark Price, and Brad Daughtery.