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Cavs adapt, playing winning basketball as Garland, Mobley mend | Jeff Schudel's The Cleveland Beat

Jan. 6—Dec. 15 dawned like a normal early winter day for the Cavaliers. By mid-afternoon, things quickly turned wonky.

One night earlier, the Cavs were playing the Celtics in Boston. Darius Garland took the brunt of a collision with Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis, who at 7-foot-2, 240 pounds is 13 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Garland.

So Dec. 15, the Cavaliers issued this double-barreled bad news release:

"Cavaliers guard Darius Garland sustained a fractured jaw during the third quarter of last night's road game at Boston. A CT scan administered this morning at Cleveland Clinic confirmed the injury. Garland will have a procedure to heal the affected area and will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks. His status will be updated as appropriate.

"Cavaliers forward/center Evan Mobley will have arthroscopic left knee surgery at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health on Monday, December 18 to remove a loose body. Recent imaging and a series of treatment and rehabilitation confirmed that surgery was the best option to alleviate the discomfort in the knee. Mobley has missed the Cavaliers previous four games and is expected to be out approximately six to eight weeks. His status will be updated as appropriate."

The Cavaliers were 13-12 after the Dec. 14 loss to the Celtics. Remarkably, they not only have treaded water in the absence of Garland and Mobley; their winning percentage has actually improved. They are 20-15 after sweeping a pair of games with the Wizards on Jan 3 and 5 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which means they are 7-3 since Garland was injured.

This, of course, in no way suggests the Cavs are better without Garland or Mobley. Instead it shows Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is able to adapt to unexpected situations. The Cavs are relying on 3-point shooting more while two of their star players continue to mend. In the past, Bickerstaff would always say games are won in the paint.

"As much as I hate to say it, it's come down to executing the analytics a little bit more," Bickerstaff said after the Cavs crushed the Wizards, 140-101, on Jan. 3. "That's what you have to do when you're down your more talented players. We're trying to jack as many 3s as we possibly can."

The Cavs were 20 of 42 from beyond the arc (47.6%) Jan. 3. They are passing the ball crisply and frequently until they find a teammate with an open shot. They dished out 37 helpers in the Jan. 3 game with the Wizards (6-28).

The Jan. 5 victory wasn't as lopsided as two nights earlier, but the Cavs still hit 16 of 33 3s (48.5%) and dished out 31 assists while making 41 baskets. Caris LeVert, who was the first man off the bench, led the way with 11 assists.

The Cavs have not released any updates on Garland or Mobley, but if their projected recovery time holds true, Garland could be back in the lineup for the Jan. 15 home game against the Bulls. Mobley could be back by the end of January.

It will be interesting to see the offensive tact Bickerstaff takes when Garland and Mobley are healthy. In the past the Cavs have been successful slowing the game down, but since they've been 3-point happy, they have been playing at a faster pace.

—The Cavaliers and Nets meet on Thursday, Dec. 11, in Paris, in a regular season game. Tipoff is 2 p.m. locally, which makes it 8 p.m. in Paris.

"This unique opportunity will provide our players, coaches, staff and families an experience into a different culture, all while creating memories both on and off the court that will last a lifetime," Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a statement. "We also recognize the universal appeal basketball inspires and we take great pride in our stewardship of the game.

"As proud representatives of the city of Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio, we look forward to establishing a personal level of engagement with our fans overseas, as well as partnering with the NBA in our collective effort to elevate basketball on the international stage."

The game will be televised by Bally Sports Ohio and also by NBA TV.

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