CLEVELAND, Ohio — So much for that slow start.
A day after Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff blamed himself for Evan Mobley’s lack of involvement early in the season, Bickerstaff kept his promise to adapt. Mobley did the rest, helping the Cavaliers to a 103–92 win over the young, still-winner Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. It is Cleveland’s third consecutive win.
With the rare toolkit that has Cavs coaches and teammates drooling over his potential, Mobley looked just like the 7-foot unicorn that could one day turn Cleveland into a championship team.
Bright it seems. Smooth step back jumpers. Feathered floats. Agile drop steps. Agile dribble drives. Snazzy passes. Impactful defense. It was all there.
“He was determined to help us win this game,” Bickerstaff said of Mobley. “We know what he is capable of. We believe in him a lot. He was attacking and went out to prove a point. I think he did.”
Mobley, last year’s runner-up Rookie of the Year, finished with a season-high 22 points on 9 of 15 shootings to go with three assists, three rebounds, one steal and a block in 34 minutes. It is Mobley’s first double-digit shot attempt of the season.
“He showed why he can ever be one of the best in the league,” Jarrett Allen said of Mobley.
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The Cavs needed Mobley’s two-way impact as three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell had a rare off night and the team’s offense didn’t buzz like the first few games. Mitchell, who became the first player in franchise history to start a season with three consecutive 30-point games, broke that streak Wednesday night.
Mitchell scored just 14 points out of a chilly 5 of 19 shots. He also added eight assists and four rebounds.
While Mitchell struggled, others stepped up all the time. Mobley led a balanced six-player double-digit scoring attack.
All-Star center Allen, Mobley’s frontcourt partner, had his second double-double of the season, with 18 points and 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive side. With his sixth rebound Wednesday, Allen surpassed 3,000 rebounds. He is only an active NBA player aged 25 or under to achieve that.
During a play early in the third quarter, after a curse-filled message from Bickerstaff about not playing by the franchise standard, Allen turned into an unstoppable force, put Orlando’s Bol Bol on a poster and punish other Magic players. .
“That’s how Jarrett leads Allen,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s not the most vocal guy, but guys follow his actions. That’s what we’ve gotten used to. He clearly received the message. That’s what we needed from him. And there was no answer for him when he decided to make it happen.”
Cedi Osman continued his blistering play from the bench, scoring 14 points on 5 of 12 shots in 31 minutes. Osman has scored double figures in all four games this season, his longest streak since November 2021.
Dean Wade, inserted into the starting lineup for an offensively challenged Isaac Okoro, added 12 points and hit 4 of 7 from outside the arc.
Caris LeVert provided ten points and six assists.
Orlando was tempered by Paolo Banchero, who still looks to be the No. 1 pick of 2022. Banchero had 29 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Franz Wagner added 22 points.
It didn’t take overtime like the home opener on Sunday night. It didn’t take superstar-level heroism from Mitchell. The Cavs just needed Mobley to be himself again, the man whose arrival last June sparked billboards and bragging rights, the man opponents listed as the breakthrough player of the season.
Perhaps Wednesday was the start of his breakthrough campaign.
All-Star point guard Darius Garland competed in the team’s shootaround Wednesday morning, but missed his third game in a row due to a left eye injury. Garland, who has been given goggles in recent days, wore them while doing target practice with teammate Kevin Love.
Bickerstaff said Garland will wear some form of protection when he returns — whenever that is. Sources claim Garland is targeting Friday night’s game in Boston, but his playing status will be determined by the swelling around his eye. Wednesday was the second consecutive day that Garland was on the field participating in basketball activities. The Cavs train on Thursday.
The Cavs travel to Boston Friday night for a game against the reigning Eastern Conference champions Celtics. Tipoff is set at 7:30 PM
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