CLEVELAND — The weather outside was frightful but the Cleveland Cavaliers were delightful in their 114-107 statement win over the Brooklyn Nets inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse during Northeast Ohio's first big snowfall of the season.
While the arena wasn't very full due to the weather conditions limiting travel around Downtown Cleveland, the energy was high as the Cavs returned home for their first game after a six game road trip. It was a tough test, even with Kevin Durant sidelined, but the Cavs aced it.
In a tight contest from start to finish, the Cavs battled it out with the Nets and controlled the lead down the stretch thanks to a stunning display of defense that only allowed Brooklyn five points over the final four minutes.
"To me, the most impressive thing is you hold a team like that to 19 points in the fourth quarter. That lets you know what you're capable of defensively," head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the win. "There were individual plays, there were one-on-one plays, there was Lauri, Isaac, there's weakside help—all the things that we talk about defensively they were there in that fourth quarter."
Leading the Cavs was none other than Darius Garland, who has proven over the course of the past week that he deserves to be an All-Star this season, and was even recognized by the league as he showed out Monday, being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
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Garland put up 22 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and two steals while continuing to facilitate the offense at a high level and bring out the best in his teammates.
TAKE OFF, @isaacokoro303 ✈️ pic.twitter.com/K4WoDWWcLB— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) January 17, 2022
Isaac Okoro had quite the game himself, showing off his defensive prowess against former Cavalier Kyrie Irving Monday afternoon while putting up 15 points, and two steals.
"We just want to keep proving to the league that we're one of the best teams in the league right now. Just taking it day by day and keep winning," Okoro said after the game.
Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen and Kevin Love each put up 14 points of their own with Markkanen contributing six boards, an assist and a steal; Allen notching a double-double with 10 rebounds in addition to his two blocks; and Love getting five boards himself.
For the Nets, Irving scored 27 with nine assists and seven rebounds while James Harden put up 22 points, 10 assists and seven boards.
The Nets entered Monday's game with a 27-15 record and one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. With the Cavs' win, Cleveland sits at No. 4 in the conference, tied in wins and just .5 games back from the Bulls at the top of the standings.
"It's a signature win for us, against a high-level team," Bickerstaff said. "Their commitment and their approach never changes and it never wavers, and to watch them grow and watch them exceed expectations individually and as a team...I couldn't be more proud of them."
The Cavs are riding a five-game win streak that they'll look to continue Wednesday night in Chicago as they take on the Bulls. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.
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