Four years after LeBron James retired his talents at the Cleveland Cavaliers, they appear to have a budding star in point guard Darius Garland.
He made his first All-Star Game this season, and he’s a man who can not only score but engage his teammates with easy shots.
Garland is the most prominent member of a successful youth movement so far in Cleveland that includes rookie big man Evan Mobley, many of whom are extremely high, fellow first-time All-Star Jarrett Allen and guard Collin Sexton, who has been out for much of this season due to injury.
The Cavs take on the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and a date with the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on the line.
If Garland is serious about proving himself to be one of the league’s newest stars, he needs to pick up a win in this contest.
Garland has already grown up
The third-year man is already starting to prove that he is someone who can elevate his game under pressure.
Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets, he had 34 points on 13 of 24 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 from downtown to go along with five assists and two steals.
—Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) April 13, 2022
Yes, the Cavs lost to the Nets, 115-108, but it wasn’t really Garland’s fault – he did a lot to give his team a chance.
It wasn’t the only big game he had this year against a big opponent.
In a regular season game against Brooklyn last week, Garland also had 31 points on nearly identical shooting numbers (12 of 24 overall and 3 of 6 from 3-point range).
He also had 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field and 4-of-10 from long range in a February game against the Hawks.
Darius Garland Scores 30 Highlights Against Atlanta Hawks! February 15, 2022 pic.twitter.com/39QJAQvyud
— NBA BASKETBALL (@DejoseMark) February 16, 2022
The bottom line is that Cleveland lost those three games.
In the NBA, stars and superstars win post-season games, and while a play-in game might not quite be a true post-season game, a tremendous performance by Garland and a Cavs victory would make a big statement to the rest of the basketball world. .
Friday will be a duel
The Cavs’ game against the Hawks will pit Garland against another star young guard by the name of Trae Young.
Young has already proven that he will put in big numbers when it really matters.
In Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals against favorites Philadelphia 76ers, he scored 39 points in an upset 109-106 win at Philadelphia.
After winning Game 7, Atlanta stole Game 1 of the Conference Finals from the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks thanks to Young’s 48 points and 11 assists.
Friday will be Garland’s chance to outplay Young, not necessarily by outscoring him individually, but more by putting on a great game overall and picking up a win.
The rising star for the Cavs not only needs to score points, but he needs to manage the game well as a general on the ground while containing Young defensively.
If Cleveland makes it to the playoffs, perhaps that can put pressure on a Heat team that could be somewhat challenged offensively.