CHARLOTTE, NC — The Cavs didn’t need a double-digit comeback this time.
In the second meeting between the two teams in three days, Cleveland beat Charlotte 120-104 on Tuesday night. The triumph underscored a successful 3-1 road trip that began last week in Miami and matches last season’s win total. The Cavs have won five of their last six games overall, giving them a firmer grip on fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Playing on the road has been problematic at times this season. But Cleveland had no trouble Tuesday night, fanning out the outplayed Hornets on the defensive end and picking them apart on the other. Even without top scorer Donovan Mitchell and indispensable center Jarrett Allen, it was one of the most complete performances of the season. The Cavs are now a dominant 31-8 against opponents with a sub-.500 record.
“I thought we were done with our business,” said Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff. “There were no mistakes, no mess in the game. We understand the task we had to do and we went out and got it done. What impressed me the most is how we went about it. We weren’t trying to score KO blows. We just kept tinkering. Just slowly build up the lead without trying too hard. A really professional attitude tonight.”
For the second straight game, Charlotte’s rebuild got off to a quick start, scoring nine of their first 14 points. But it couldn’t maintain that level of play this time around as the spirited, energetic and caged Cavs quickly took the sting out of the Hornets.
There were only five lead changes and two draws. Charlotte never led after the first quarter. The Cavs were ahead by a game-high 26 at one point in the second half. They were in control for 41 minutes.
Sales were history. The Cavs forced 15 first-half errors while committing just one — a key to Cleveland’s 15-point lead at halftime. Although Charlotte spoke at half-time about the importance of looking after the ball in the dressing room, she opened the second half in a similar fashion, with consecutive errors in the first two possessions. Those errors allowed Cleveland to build their biggest lead of the night — 19 points. At least until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the lead increased to 26.
The Hornets finished with 22 turnovers, which the Cavs converted to 35 points. The Cavs made just nine errors that night. At one point, the Cavs had outstripped the Hornets 31-0 in turnovers.
“Understanding the value of every possession, that’s one of the things we’ve talked to the guys about as the games get bigger and more critical, every possession counts,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s important to be able to shoot at goal. When you have guys who can create, who can score, it’s important to put it on the edge, to at least give yourself a chance.”
With about four minutes left and the game well in hand, Bickerstaff emptied the bench, fielding Raul Neto, Sam Merrill, Dylan Windler, Danny Green and Isaiah Mobley. This quintet put the finishing touches to the blowout. Mobley and Windler each made a basket on this stretch.
Evan Mobley, Isaiah’s younger brother, led on 10 of 16 shots with a team-high 26 points. Seizing a bigger opportunity, Cedi Osman took 24 points off the bench, hitting 8 of 13 from the field and 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
“I think he just played freely and then Cedi’s best thing is for him to just go out there and try to be the best version of himself and we have to give him opportunities to do that too,” Bickerstaff said. “But I thought his teammates did a great job of finding him. Every time he was open it seemed like the ball was in his hands and he had his confidence faltering and his teammates kept pushing him.
Caris LeVert – who started for Mitchell, who was held up for injury treatment because of his sprained left middle finger – was impressive in every respect, finishing with 22 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals in 27 minutes. Darius Garland added 19 points and seven dimes. Lamar Stevens, who earned his second straight start for Allen with a bruised right eye, contributed 11 points. Ricky Rubio also reached double digits, scoring 11 points on 5 of 11 shots.
Charlotte swingman Kelly Oubre Jr., who missed Sunday’s game with a back problem, finished the game with 28 points. Terry Rozier had 22.
The Cavs are returning to Cleveland after nine days away from home. Tuesday evening was an exclamation mark on an impressive journey. They finished it off in style.
What street fights?
Tuesday’s victory gave Bickerstaff the 200th of his career.
Allen has missed the last two games after an eye injury sustained in Miami on Friday night and his status for Wednesday’s showdown with Philly is uncertain. Bickerstaff said the team takes things “on a day-to-day basis” with Allen.
“It just depends on how quickly it recovers,” explained Bickerstaff. “With eyes, it’s difficult to make a timeline for it.”
Allen is averaging 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting 64.9% from the field.
The Cavs return home for a matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m
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