Cavs scrap their way to victory against Denver

After coming off a tough loss to the 76ers Wednesday night, Cleveland continued their five-game homestand Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

The Cavs got double-doubles from Lauri Markkanen, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley as they defeated the Nuggets 119-116 in OT at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Denver had an opportunity to tie the game in OT, but Bones Hyland missed a three at the buzzer, and Cleveland got the big victory.

The Cavs(40-30) are now 2-1 on their homestand.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ win.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

Lauri, Lauri, Lauri! Markkanen was big-time Friday night. He had a season-high 31 points(11/16 FG), including six threes, 10 rebounds, and a career-high four steals. With the game tied at 114 in OT, Markkanen made the go-ahead three with 28.3 seconds left. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team does not defeat Denver without Markkanen. He went toe-to-toe with Nikola Jokic and got the job done.

-Evan Mobley is going to be something. Mobley scored nine of the team’s 12 points in OT, and he finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Additionally, he had a big layup plus the foul to put Cleveland up three late in OT, which helped the Cavs hold on to the lead.

The rookie continues to play well at the center spot for the injured Jarrett Allen. Since he became the starter at center, Mobley is averaging 21.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest.

-Of course, Darius Garland had his fingerprints on this victory. The All-Star had 25 points, four rebounds, and 14 assists. This was Garland’s six double-double in eight games. Garland had the biggest offensive rebound of the game in OT, which set up Markkanen’s three that gave the Cavs the lead for good.

-Kevin Love battled Friday night. He scored nine of his 12 points(4/9 3PT FG) and grabbed five of his nine rebounds in the fourth quarter. Love worked tirelessly to keep Jokic off the glass and, along the way, made some big shots. For his efforts, Love earned “The Junkyard Dog Award” for his work on defense and on the boards.

Fourth Quarter: The Cavaliers trailed by 11(63-52) at halftime and by nine(87-78) going into the fourth. Denver matched their largest lead of the game of 14 in the final quarter, and with the Cavs trailing by 12 with just over eight minutes to go in regulation; Cleveland went on 20-6 run to take their first lead since early in the second quarter. The Cavs shot 53% from the floor, including 63% from deep in the fourth, and limited the Nuggets to 1/8 from three=point range. Cleveland would outscore Denver 29-20 in the quarter to get the game to OT.

Overtime: See Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, and Darius Garland above. Cleveland outscored the Nuggets 12-9 in OT.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

-We can point to their poor second quarter, where they were outscored 34-21, but not today. This win is too good to be negative.

Bottom Line:

This was a gut-check for the Cavs, and they battled and fought their way to victory. This team showed heart, grit, and to steal a word from Bickerstaff, scrap, to defeat the Nuggets. There is  little margin for error for the Cavs, and based on how they fought back against Denver, this team knows that.

As for the standings, Cleveland now has sole possession of the sixth spot in the East after the Raptors(39-31) fell to the Lakers at home in OT. The Cavs essentially have a two-game lead  because they have taken the season-series over the Raptors(3-0).

The two teams play one more time next week.

What’s Next:

Cleveland hosts the Detroit Pistons Saturday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Jokic led Denver with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Aaron Gordon added 20 points, and Hyland had 17 points off the bench. The Nuggets had six players in double figures.

-For the second straight game, Cedi Osman was a DNP-CD. After their loss to Philly, Bickerstaff said the team wanted to give Dylan Windler minutes, which means Osman sits for now. We’ll probably see Osman again at some point.

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