It’s still very early in the year, but it’s starting to feel like this Cavaliers team has something special brewing – already having accomplished something that would’ve been almost unthinkable just one season ago.
On Monday night, the Cavaliers wrapped up a brutal early-season trip at 3-2 – shutting down one Hornets run after another and getting big performances from their big frontline, taking the 113-110 thriller at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
After splitting the first four games of the roadie out West against some of the Conference’s true heavyweights, J.B. Bickerstaff’s scrappy young squad came out of the locker room ready to rumble against the team that spoiled their home opener less than two weeks ago, taking a 19-point lead after a 40-point first quarter and holding off the Hornets the rest of the night.
The Cavaliers jumbo frontline of Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley was excellent on Monday – combining for 60 points, 34 rebounds, seven blocks, five steals and five assists.
Allen set the tone early against Charlotte – notching 15 of his team-high 24 points in the first quarter, going 9-of-13 from the floor overall, adding a game-best 16 rebounds, six off the offensive glass, three blocks, two assists and a steal.
Lauri Markkanen finished with a season-best 21 points on 7-for-19 shooting, adding eight boards, a pair of steals and three swats of his own.
And then there’s the precocious rookie from USC – Evan Mobley – who notched his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds, going 7-of-15 from the floor to go with three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
All five Cavalier starters notched double-figures on Monday – with Collin Sexton finishing with 17 points, seven boards, two steals and a pair of assists and Darius Garland adding 16 points, four assists and three picks.
Cedi Osman, who led Cleveland with 20 points off the bench on Saturday night, stayed hot – chipping in with 13 points in relief against Charlotte, going 4-of-5 from deep for 13 points. Ricky Rubio led the Wine & Gold with eight assists in 25 minutes of work off the bench.
The Cavaliers held Charlotte – the league’s highest scoring team at 118.6ppg – to 41 percent shooting and 17 turnovers on Monday. Once again, the Wine & Gold held a wide free throw disparity in the win – going 26-of-38 from the line compared to 11-of-15 for the Hornets.
LaMelo Bell led all scorers with 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-8 from deep. He and Youngstown native Terry Rozier – who finished with 23 on the night – notched 13 points in the fourth quarter.
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Darius Garland flips a pass upstairs to Evan Mobley who catches and throws down a strong dunk to finish off the ally-oop.
The Wine & Gold staved off several Charlotte runs on Monday – but stalling the Hornets momentum just before half – where the Lakers and Suns stung them – might’ve been the biggest.
The Cavs scored a season-high 40 points in the first quarter and led by 19 after one. But Charlotte chipped away in the second period and cut Cleveland’s lead to single-digits – 50-42 – with 6:31 to go before half.
Instead of folding, the Cavaliers answered right back, with Lauri Markkenen keying a 13-3 run to answer. Cleveland went into the locker room up 16 – 65-49 – and didn’t trail the rest of the way.
BY THE NUMBERS
By the Numbers - .436, .298 … shooting percentage and three-point percentage the Cavaliers have allowed teams to shoot on the five-game road trip – averaging 9.4 steals and 4.0 blocks while causing 18.0 turnovers per.
Jarrett Allen, on wrapping up the road trip in style …
”If you look at Vegas, on paper, we probably weren’t supposed to win a lot of games. We didn’t let that get in the way of how we wanted to play Cavs basketball. We’ve had some slip ups, but for us to end the road trip on a high note, it’s a confidence boost for us as a team.”
CALLS OF THE GAME
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and Rafa Hernandez-Brito from Power 89.1.
The Wine & Gold return to the North Coast – but not for long – when they welcome Damian Lillard and the Blazers to town in their homecoming on Wednesday night. From there, they get right back on the road – traveling north to face the Raptors on Friday night before heading to Madison Square Garden for a Sunday night showdown with the Knicks.
The Cavs tip off a well-deserved four-game homestand when they return from New York – welcoming the Wizards and Pistons before the Celtics roll in for two on Nov. 13 and 15.