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Next year at around this time, the Wine & Gold hope to be still on the hardwood, tangling in the NBA’s postseason tournament instead of gearing up for the Lottery. Until that time, the Cavaliers will await the results of June 22’s drawing – and prepare to reload with the results.
Before we officially turn the page on the 2020-21 campaign, however, let’s pause to praise some of the best individual showings from the previous season.
Career-highs were set, big victories were secured, and, in the case of a couple guys, they didn’t even miss a shot.
So here’s a look back at a randomly-ordered Cava-List featuring some of the best efforts from last year …
Despite lugging the toughest defensive assignment on a nightly basis, Isaac Okoro actually improved on the offensive end as the year progressed – bursting through the rookie wall to finish strong.
There was no better display of the rugged rookie’s offensive evolution than his career night against the Suns in early May.
In a game that featured 15 ties and 10 lead-changes and with Phoenix trying to pull away late, Okoro scored Cleveland’s final five points of regulation, tying the game at 114-apiece before the Cavs went ice-cold in the extra-session.
On the night, the 20-year-old Atlanta native – who’d posted his career-high of 20 points the previous week in Toronto – eclipsed that mark by the end of the third quarter against the Suns, leading both teams with 32 points, going 10-for-16 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from deep and a perfect 9-of-9 from the stripe, adding six assists, three boards and a steal.
In the next game following the Wine & Gold jumping headlong into a four-team trade that landed them 22-year-old center Jarrett Allen and versatile swingman Taurean Prince, so much of the attention in their January 20 meeting with the new-look Nets focused on Brooklyn’s newly-minted Big Three.
But it was Collin Sexton who stole the show.
Returning from a five-game absence with an ankle injury, the Young Bull saved his best for last – scoring 15 of a career-best 42 points in the second OT of a 147-135 double-overtime thriller at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, drilling five triples overall after regulation.
The third-year man from Bama splashed home his first bomb of the night with 1.2 seconds remaining in the first overtime to tie the game at 127-apiece. In the second OT, the third-year guard from Alabama was utterly unstoppable, going 5-of-6 from the floor and scoring 15 of Cleveland’s 20 points in the period.
Kevin Love would be the first to admit it was a frustrating 2020-21 campaign in Cleveland. But at least he can say he looked like his old self in the final home game.
Battling nagging injuries all season long, the five-time All-Star saved his best work for last – helping the Cavaliers snap a season-long 11-game slide with a win over Boston in the home finale with easily his best performance of the year.
The Celtics battled back to take a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Love drilled two straight triples to key an 11-0 run as Cleveland dropped Boston for the second time since the All-Star Break.
On the night, Love finished with with 30 points and 14 boards – both season-highs – going 10-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from long-range, adding three assists and a pair of steals.
Over the years, foes have dreaded the idea of facing off against the San Antonio defense, but in two games against them this season, Darius Garland had a pair of field days.
Just more than a fortnight after setting his career-high against the Spurs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the sophomore from Vandy took his show on the road – leading both teams 37 points in 30 minutes, going 14-for-22 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from deep and 4-of-4 from the stripe.
In the 125-101 win, Cleveland’s biggest road victory since a 28-point blowout of the Pistons in 2017, Garland also paced both teams with seven assists, adding a pair of steals and a block in the win.
In two games against San Antonio this season, the 21-year-old averaged 33.0 points per, shooting .579 from the floor (22-of-38), .500 from long-range (7-for-14) and from the stripe 1.000 (15-of-15). He also combined for 15 assists, leading both teams in both games.
There’s always the case of a player having a great game while his team lays a collective egg around him.
The Wine & Gold would rather forget a 117-101 home loss to the Thunder. But Jarrett Allen had a night to remember, drilling all 11 shots he attempted from the floor to net a then-career-high 26 points while also leading both teams with 17 rebounds to notch his fourth straight double-double.
With his perfect night, Allen became just the third player in the last 30 years – joining Dikembe Mutombo and Dwight Howard – to finish with at least 25 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 100 percent from the floor.
Paired with his previous game’s performance, a loss to the Nuggets, Allen shot .950 – 19-of-20 – from the floor over that two-game stretch.
The only Cavalier who might be more frustrated by the injury bug over the past two seasons than Kevin Love is Dylan Windler.
After being tabbed with the 26th overall pick in 2019, Windler was sidelined for his entire first season. A freak fall in this year’s season opener sidelined him early and knee surgery sidelined him late – limiting the former Belmont star to just 31 games as an official “rookie.”
But Windler did have a brief, brilliant two-game run this past year that had to feel good – and the Cavaliers came out on top in each.
After canning all five three-point attempts off the bench in a thrilling home victory over the Hawks – to snap a 10-game losing skid – finishing with 15 points, five boards, a steal and a block, Windler was just as hot the following night against Houston, connecting on all four bombs while adding four boards and a pair of assists.
The 24-year-old Indianapolis native came into that week shooting .304 from deep and he headed into the weekend at .418.