January 14, 2022; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) shoots around San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell (24) during the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season, and third-year guard Darius Garland is a big reason for that.
Heading into the final of a six-game road trip on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Garland is coming off two of the best games of his career and the Cavaliers have won three straight and four of their first five on the hike.
In a 114-109 victory at San Antonio on Friday, Garland had 32 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Two days earlier at Utah, Garland had his first career triple-double — 11 points, a career-high 14 assists and 10 rebounds in a 111-91 win over the Jazz.
“It was just play after play that he did and he had the courage to keep the ball in his hand, to look for the ball to make the play,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said of the Garland’s performance on Friday. “We have absolute confidence in him, and his job is to finish for us.”
Saturday’s meeting with the Thunder will also be a clash between two of the NBA’s top rookies, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey.
Mobley is averaging 14.9 points, eight rebounds and 2.7 assists, becoming the rookie of the year favorite.
Giddey, meanwhile, has been a big reason for the Thunder’s recent offensive success.
Oklahoma City has played two of its three best games of the season in the past two games, including a season-high in a 130-109 road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
In the last six games since returning from a three-game stint in NBA health and safety protocol, Giddey is averaging 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, eight assists and 1.7 interceptions while shooting 48% from the ground.
“When we get into the paint, good things happen,” Giddey said. “I think that’s the other end of the floor that we need to clear – defensively stick to the covers and lock in on that end.”
Overall, Giddey is averaging 11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists midway through the season.
The only rookies in NBA history to average at least 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists were Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Ben Simmons.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault isn’t getting carried away with the numbers Giddey — or any of his other players — is posting, but he said he liked the direction the offense was heading, even before the last two games.
“We try to build a style and we try to build an identity and we try to build it on the part that we can control, and the shooting is the last part of the piece, you don’t really control said Daigneault.
Saturday’s game is the first of two meetings between the teams this season, with the other taking place Jan. 22 in Cleveland in the final game of the Thunder’s upcoming four-game road trip.
The Thunder have been without Isaiah Roby the last five games due to health protocol, while Kenrich Williams has missed the last two.
Cleveland’s Rajon Rondo has missed the last two games with right hamstring pain.
–Field level media