Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland was among the notable snubs when the All-Star reserves were announced earlier this week, but he quickly moved on to more important matters.
Garland remains laser-focused on Cleveland’s playoff push, which continues Sunday against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
The fourth-year pro appeared to have a strong case for the All-Star team, averaging 22.0 points and 8.2 assists for the Cavaliers, who lead the league in defensive rating (109.7).
“It’s a little disappointing,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I don’t understand how he’s not an All-Star. You look at what he’s done, how he’s helped this team win, and that should be the priority. It’s a little frustrating and disappointing that he was not on that team, but we know how valuable he is and how important he is to us and to this group. On the court, in the locker room, he’s our All-Star.”
Garland tallied 32 points and 11 assists in Cleveland’s 128-113 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
The game was marked by an altercation in the third quarter after Memphis forward Dillon Brooks swung his hand up and hit Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell in the groin. Brooks was suspended for one game and Mitchell was fined $20,000 for throwing the ball at Brooks and pushing him.
Garland said after the game that the tussle offered a good reminder of the Cavaliers’ identity.
“We’re a tough group,” Garland said. “We’ve got some guys that get after you and we’re going to fight back if you try to push us first. We’re not soft or anything. We’re still some dogs, and we’ll never back down from nobody, never lay down for nobody.”
The Cavaliers will look to win two straight for the first time since early January when they visit Indiana.
The Pacers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 107-104 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Buddy Hield made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points, Aaron Nesmith added 17 points, and Myles Turner had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle was encouraged by his team’s defensive effort after causing 19 turnovers and holding Sacramento to 43.0 percent shooting.
“The idea tonight was to keep the wheels on the wagon,” Carlisle said. “Stay on the basics. Solid, team defense, base defense, guard your yard, stick with the basic rules. This is the kind of game, if it was a ballet, they would have kicked our (butts). If it’s a slugfest, it’s more of our kind of game. They’re just too good offensively.”
Indiana split its first two games against Cleveland this season, including a 135-126 victory on Dec. 29. Tyrese Haliburton and Hield combined for 11 3-pointers and 54 points in the win.
The Pacers’ frontcourt received a boost earlier this week with the season debut of center Daniel Theis, who was out while recovering from right knee surgery.
Playing in his second game of the season, Theis had eight points and four rebounds in 15 minutes against Sacramento.
“I thought if you were going to give a game ball tonight it would probably go to Theis,” Carlisle said. “He showed the kind of player he is and the kind of impact he can have on our team. He was plus-12 off the bench. He gives us a different kind of big. A guy that has feel, has skill, but still has toughness, can protect the rim and do those kinds of things.”
–Field Level Media