Cleveland Cavaliers lose Evan Mobley, beat Orlando Magic, 107-101, to clinch winning season

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It was a bittersweet night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fueled by a scorching start on offense and a few late clutch shots from their All-Star, the Cavaliers outshot the rebuilding Orlando Magic, 107-101, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Monday. The victory ends Cleveland’s premature three-game losing streak and helps rekindle their playoff hopes.

But it wasn’t all good news.

Rookie of the Year favorite Phenom Evan Mobley left the game midway through the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. Mobley did not return, officially ruled out for the rest of the game before the start of the third quarter.

There is no word yet on the severity of the ankle injury, which occurred when Mobley landed awkwardly on the foot of fellow rookie Franz Wagner as he attempted to contest a lay-up from conduct. After lying on the pitch for a bit during the stoppage and being controlled by Wagner, Mobley was eventually helped and limped back to the locker room.

The youngster finished with six points and three rebounds in 13 minutes.

“With Evan it’s sometimes hard to tell because he’s so calm, but I think he rode pretty well,” said teammate Love. “Just take the air out of the building and take the air out of the team. It’s definitely gutted us to lose Evan, whether it’s for one game, two games, three games, whatever. We just have to keep going. fight and hope he recovers quickly and can be back with us because he means so much to the team.

At the time of Mobley’s injury, the Cavs were leading the Magic, 47-35. Orlando went on a 14-4 run immediately after Mobley left the game. The Magic beat Cleveland, 18-13, in the final 5:11 of the second quarter. Despite Orlando’s late push, the Cavs scored 60 points in the first half, took the lead in the break and hung on late for a well-deserved triumph.

“They just kept sticking together, fighting for each other,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said after the game. “Injuries weigh on you mentally and can be a distraction and through that distraction we complicated the game to a point where we didn’t have to. I thought if we just kept doing simple things over and over again, we were getting positive results. We found a way.

During a team meeting on Sunday afternoon, Bickerstaff spoke to the group about playing with more freedom and exuberance. Sensing a tight team, putting too much pressure on themselves in this late-season playoff run, Bickerstaff wanted his players to come into Monday night with a clear mind and fresh outlook.

The meeting worked. The Cavs led by 20 points in the first half, looking more like one of their early season performances. The downturn didn’t start until Mobley limped off.

First-time All-Star Darius Garland scored a game-high 25 of 7 of 17 from the field, 5 of 10 from 3-point range and 6 of 6 from the free throw line to go with 12 assists and three steals . It’s his 26th double-double this season and his 10th in March. Garland had seven of those points in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back buckets that gave the Cavs an eight-point cushion with 2:25 remaining.

“Darius is a closer and he has the ability to do all the shots whether it’s rim, midrange, floaters, rebound, catch-and-shoots,” Bickerstaff said of Garland. . “You look at the teams that are winning, and most of those games are in the fourth quarter, they have a closer game and Darius is at that level and that’s an elite level.”

Lauri Markkanen, who recovered from a knee injury in the second half, added 20 points. Love, starting the second half in place of Mobley, contributed with 19 of 7 of 15 from the field and 4 of 12 from beyond the arc.

“It’s an emotional boost for our guys,” Bickerstaff said when asked about Love’s impact. “You can see what our guys think of Kevin and how supportive they are of him and how much they just want to see him succeed. Going back to the start of the year, they understood the sacrifice he made by stepping onto the bench and taking on this role to help the team. They couldn’t be happier for him when he starts and the crowd gets behind him and gives us an even bigger boost.

Orlando used a balanced scoring effort to stay close throughout – a game that featured 14 lead changes and eight draws. The Magic saw seven players reach double digits, led by Wendell Carter Jr.’s 15 points.

The Cavs started the night without four players – Collin Sexton (season-ending knee surgery), Dean Wade (season-ending knee surgery), Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle) and Jarrett Allen (fractured left middle finger ). Wade, who had been suffering from knee pain for a few weeks, underwent surgery on his partially torn meniscus early Monday morning. There have been many other absences throughout the season.

Mobley has become the latest addition to this endless injury list. It could be a blow to the team’s playoff chances if Mobley is out for an extended period.

“I don’t know if there was another team that went through what we went through – Caris (LeVert) being out and Lauri being out and DG being out, whoever it was,” Love said. “We’ve had guys who have progressed and played well, but we’re the type of team whose team strength is the team. When we are whole, we are simply much better off.

Monday was a portrait of the season. There was fun and exciting basketball mixed with ugliness and stingy defense. It led to a win. But it wasn’t easy and it happened under a dark cloud of injury uncertainty.

Even one night the Cavs won their 42nd game, setting a winning record for the first time since 1998 without LeBron James, they couldn’t take full advantage of it.

Cavs deaths, taxes and injuries. The only certainties.

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The Cavs will wrap up their homestand with a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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