It was all good until the last few minutes.
The Washington Wizards entered Sunday night’s game against Cleveland playing their best basketball of the season having won seven straight and nine of their last 10 games before knocking off the Cavs 119-110.
This certainly was one of the more fun games the Cavs have had this season despite coming out with the loss. There were bright spots all around despite an ugly finish. It was a game that it felt like the Cavs were going to win until the final couple minutes, and then it felt like everything that could go wrong, did.
Here are a few takeaways from the loss to Washington:
Return of the Cedi
Cedi Osman has been collecting DNP-CDs lately as he’s fallen out of the rotation, but had a spot on Sunday night with Collin Sexton in concussion protocol. Osman played one of, if not his best game of the year for the Cavs. Osman finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a handful of assists. But more so than what the box score said, Osman looked like a guy that was at the very least in control of himself, which is often one of the problems that he has faced in the NBA. There’s certainly talent there for Osman, but for him to be a legitimate NBA contributor, he has to be the guy that he was against Washington. When he tries to do too much, he’s often doing more harm than good.
Speaking of in control…
Darius Garland is becoming the player that some (including me, hello) thought he could be when the Cavs drafted him fifth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. When he’s on the floor, the offense moves as smooth as it can. Garland has the ability that isn’t super teachable, and that’s to control the flow of the game and play at whatever pace is needed. He can play fast and he can play slow (which is certainly more difficult than it sounds). On Sunday night he finished with 28 points and nine assists. He was unquestionably the best player on the floor for the Cavs, and someone they couldn’t stay afloat without. In a nine-point loss, the Cavs outscored the Wizards by three points with Garland on the floor. He was the only player in the starting five to finish with a positive net rating (Dean Wade was the only other one on the team, and he only played six minutes).
Jarrett Allen trying to destroy everything in his path
Every time Allen gets the ball near the basket, the only thing on his mind is trying to obliterate everything in his path. Once upon a time, in a different work life, I was in a Kenny Atkinson scrum and he was asked about a younger Allen getting dunked on frequently and he responded something to the tune of great shot blockers are going to get dunked on sometimes, that’s part of it. That’s sort of how I feel about Allen on offense too. He isn’t the best finisher at the league. He gets his shots/dunk attempts blocked more often than is ideal, but he puts down some absolutely bonkers dunks, too. Every time he goes up for a dunk attempt, his intention isn’t just scoring two points, it’s making sure the person that’s trying to stop him from scoring two points never even thinks about trying again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s something that’s fun and admirable. Allen finished with a career high 27 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday.
Okoro’s defensive shine
Truth be told, this game might turn out differently if Isaac Okoro doesn’t get called for his fifth foul in the fourth quarter. The foul was questionable, at best, and came with the Cavs leading Washington 97-95 with 7:46 left in regulation. It seemed as if once Okoro picked up that fifth foul he wasn’t quite the same on the defensive end of the floor — and understandably so — which made the Cavs attempting to get stops that much harder. They couldn’t do that down the stretch, and ultimately, it cost them the game. But the bright side to this was that Okoro did quite a bit to slow down Washington’s Russell Westbrook. Okoro helped to stop Westbrook’s streak of four consecutive triple-doubles at four, and held the former MVP to just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and four turnovers. This one may have turned out differently if that fifth foul wasn’t called.
The Cavs don’t have much time to get over this one. They’re back in action tomorrow night in Tampa Fla., taking on the Toronto Raptors. Game time is 7:30 p.m.