Cavs Defense & Guards Lead the Way, Bring Down Defending Champs

*** Playing without two of their top three scorers, the Wine and Gold made short work of the World Champs – running out to a double-digit lead early in the second half and never looking back for the 121-109 victory. Darius Garland led all scorers for the second straight game and rookie Craig Porter had another big showing off the bench. Defensively, the Cavaliers held two-time MVP Nikola Jokic completely in check as they won their third straight.

*** After topping the 20-point mark just once in his previous six outings, Darius Garland has now scored 20-plus in back-to-back games – finishing with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, leading Cleveland with six assists to go with a steal and a blocked shot. 

*** Jarrett Allen finished with a season-high in points as he continues to work his way back into shape – finishing with 15 points despite going scoreless in the first quarter. Allen also kept Nikola Jokic from being a major factor – holding him to 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. But maybe most impressive was the fact that he finished the contest a jaw-dropping +42 in just 29 minutes of work. 

*** “J.B. mentioned (the plus/minus number) after the game,” smiled Allen. “I was surprised, honestly. Tonight, they all talked to me about bringing energy and effort. My shots weren’t falling in the first quarter, and I didn’t want to let that get me down. So, I continued to play with more energy and more energy and in the third quarter we just took off with it.”

*** As good as the Cavaliers defense was on Sunday night – holding Denver’s starting backcourt to a combined 16 points, outrebounding the Nuggets by 14 and outscoring them, 56-46, in the paint – the offense was that much better (again) – topping the 50 percent shooting mark as a team in their third straight contest – including 55 percent on Sunday – the first time they’ve done so since mid-February last year.

*** Evan Mobley finished with 16 points and 10 boards – adding five assists and a pair of blocked shots in Sunday’s win to register his fourth straight double-double, the longest such streak of his three-year career. Over that stretch, the soft-spoken seven-footer is averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 boards per while shooting 67 percent from the floor.  

*** One week after knocking off the Ravens, the Browns topped their archrival Pittsburgh Steelers to improve to 7-3 on the season. To celebrate the big win, all-world defensive end – and Cavs minority partner – Myles Garrett was seated courtside near the Cleveland bench. Former Brown (and Steeler) Joe Haden was also in the house on Sunday.  

*** The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray, but the Cavaliers were really shorthanded on Sunday – playing again without Donovan Mitchell (hamstring), Isaac Okoro (knee), Ty Jerome (ankle) and Caris LeVert (knee).

*** With three guards out of the lineup, Sam Merrill got his longest run of the season – finishing with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench. Impressive rookie Craig Porter Jr., coming off a career-high 12-point performance on Friday against Detroit was even better on Sunday – notching a new-career-best 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and a perfect 7-of-7 from the stripe, adding four boards, four assists, a pair of steals and a blocked shot.  

*** Porter’s early success has been a surprise, even to himself: “If you looked at our team going into Training Camp, we’ve got every piece we could want,” said Porter. “And me, being on a two-way, I figured I’d be in the G-League and work my way into it, eventually get a chance and work my way into small minutes. Obviously, with injuries and stuff, you’ve got to be ready. That’s one of the things they told me early in the year after Training Camp: just be ready, you never know when your number’s going to be called. I took that to heart, and it’s been working for me.”

*** After smushing the Nuggets on Sunday night, the Wine and Gold hit the road for the final time this month, traveling to Philadelphia for a nationally-televised In-Season Tournament matchup with the Sixers on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers welcome the Heat to town on the night before Thanksgiving followed by a visit from LeBron James and the Lakers on Saturday night. 

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