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How did the Cavs respond to adversity in Game 5′s pivotal win? Wine and Gold Talk Podcast

CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this episode of the Wine and Gold Talk podcast, the hosts give their initial reactions to the Cavs’ 104-103 victory in Game 5.

More Cavs coverage

Takeaways:

  • The Cleveland Cavaliers faced adversity with key player Jarrett Allen missing a crucial playoff game due to injury.
  • The absence of Jarrett Allen forced the Cavs to rely on a collective effort from the team and also a larger picture of, could Evan Mobley be ready to make the jump to full-time center?
  • The Cavs now have an opportunity to close out the series in the next game. The Cleveland Cavaliers demonstrated composure and resilience in a close game against the Orlando Magic.

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Read the automated transcript of today’s podcast below. Because it’s a computer-generated transcript, it may contain errors and misspellings.

Ethan Sands (00:01.815)

What up Cavs Nation, I’m your host Ethan Sands and I’m back with another episode of the Wine and Gold Talk Podcast. I’m joined by the best in the business after game 5 where the Cavs took down the Orlando Magic in a Thriller. Chris Fidor Beat Reporter Cleveland.com Jimmy Watkins Columnist Cleveland

You know we’re holding it down for you guys after game 5 with almost instant reactions. So Chris, I want to just dive into the fire here. This is the closest game that the Cavs have had in the playoffs this year. What are your immediate thoughts about what went down and how the Cavs handled adversity in today’s game?

Chris Fedor (00:42.178)

Okay.

Chris Fedor (00:54.574)

I think that’s the biggest thing guys. To me, this isn’t one about analyzing the how and the why of a victory. It was about the Cavs trying to find a way, any way necessary, to get this win at home and have an opportunity to close it out in Orlando on Friday because of what they were missing. Coming into tonight’s game, the Cavs knew it was going to be an uphill battle. Jarrett Allen missing the game, bruised rib.

In the first four games of the series guys with Jarrett off the floor in the minutes when he was not on the floor The Cavs were outscored by the Magic by nearly 20 points per 100 possessions

It was the greatest differential of anybody. And he was their best player in the first four games. The defensive anchor, elite rebounding that he was bringing to the Cavs, a level of physicality. He’s an offensive fulcrum because of how much screening he does for them. The vertical spacing that he can create. He was scoring inside as well. He was having the kind of bounce back playoff series that I think a lot of people around the NBA

and a lot of people in Cleveland were wondering, is Jarrett Allen capable of? So through the first four games…

to have him playing at that level and then not have him in the biggest game of the season, a pivotal game five that could have swung the series depending on the outcome that it was going to be, the Cavs just had to find a way, somehow some way, overcome that absence. And they did it by committee. There were individuals obviously that stepped up and played a big role in that, but…

Chris Fedor (02:40.99)

They took that next-men mentality that they’ve been leaning on throughout the course of the season while trying to navigate a season filled with injuries They took that to heart and they found a way to win and the other thing that stood out to me guys is that in the fourth quarter

Orlando was making some big shots. Joe Ingalls hit a big three, Jonathan Isaac hit a big three in front of the Cavs bench. Paolo Banquero was making some really difficult shots. Orlando was putting pressure on the Cavs in the same way that they did at times in the previous two games in Central Florida. Only this time the Cavs kept their composure.

Only this time, the Cavs stayed together. So it wasn’t in Orlando, right? They have to show that they can do that same kind of thing at the Kia Center. It was really, really helpful to be at Rocket Moorish’s Fieldhouse and not be in a hostile environment. But they talked after those two games in Orlando about the things that went wrong, especially in those second half collapses and those third quarter doldrums. And when Orlando was making its push

fourth quarter and they were putting a lot of pressure on the Cavs. It was a lot different for them, the way that they handled it compared to how they did in Orlando. And I thought that stood out to me too.

Ethan Sands (04:03.839)

Jimmy, coming into game five, you had to kind of ask if we were going to have a game like this, a close contest. What are your original thoughts after seeing a type of game like that tonight?

Jimmy Watkins (04:03.962)

Think it.

Chris Fedor (04:06.907)

Thanks for watching!

Chris Fedor (04:11.906)

It’s

Jimmy Watkins (04:18.117)

Yeah, big picture. I think it kind of, it like validates the story they’ve been telling themselves about this season, right? I’ll be honest, I’ve been getting, starting to roll my eyes a little bit in some of these pregame media sessions when JB starts talking about all the adversity that they’ve been through and how that can inform them in a playoff series, because like, come on, man. It’s a playoff series. Like, you were here last year.

But honestly, tonight was kind of like a microcosm of their season, right? Like you’re down a guy, a couple other guys are playing through stuff. You’re getting hit with, you’re getting hit with haymakers, I mean, Palo, Palo was incredible tonight. His shot making was unreal. Like Isaac Kikoro was really competing his tail off on defense. It will be lost to history because.

Chris Fedor (04:58.134)

Yes.

Jimmy Watkins (05:08.909)

Pala was just, was just wetting that net up. It was insane the shots he was making, particularly late down the stretch. But like, like you said, like Chris said, they just kind of figured it out. They, they, they weathered the storm, so to speak. And I, I don’t, again, I’ve been skeptical about it for a lot, for a long time now, but like, I think you have to give some credence to it now. Part of it is it probably is because they were at home. I don’t know if they win this game in Orlando.

But being able to, Darius even mentioned before the fourth quarter, the little 8-0 run that Orlando came out with, that had in the third quarter, it’s like, it’s kind of like, okay, here we go again, kind of thing, they bounce back from that. To the point about it being the close, I just think anytime there’s a series like this where you’re blowing each other out all the time, I’m always curious as to how teams will handle it when it gets a little tight.

Chris Fedor (05:50.798)

Mm-hmm.

Jimmy Watkins (06:05.969)

particularly when it’s the playoffs, particularly when you have two teams like this. I mean, I actually think both teams kind of showed themselves pretty well here. Like Orlando rose to the occasion, the Cavs rose to the occasion. It was a good game at the end. By far the best game of the series, both in terms of how close it was and the quality of play down at the end. But yeah, it’s just, it’s a home game, but it’s so huge to pull this one out.

given everything that they, all the numbers that Chris just read. And I think that there’s something extra in there about, about belief when you, when you get through, you grit through something like this.

Chris Fedor (06:48.03)

And to your point, Jimmy, like to me, the fourth quarter wasn’t about Orlando not making enough plays or not being good enough down the stretch. It’s just that the Cavs were up to that task and they were even better down the stretch.

They got the block that they needed by Evan Mobley. They got some important free throws from Donovan Mitchell. They got some timely shots as well. So both teams, I thought, it wasn’t a situation where one team just crumbled late in the game and allowed the other team to take it. It was a situation where both were playing well at both ends of the floor, and the Cavs just did a few things better, one point better, to get the win that they desperately needed.

Ethan Sands (07:33.703)

And you mentioned the Donovan Mitchell free throws and we all know he was pissed off at himself after the game for missing the one free throw that he missed all night. He was nine of 10 from the charity stripe tonight. But we had talked about this team potentially going small and we all had differing opinions about how it could or couldn’t work. And with Jarrett Allen being out, they were kind of forced into this.

Chris Fedor (07:40.098)

Of course he was.

Chris Fedor (07:45.485)

Yeah.

Ethan Sands (08:03.095)

different scenario to try and have somebody step up. And they chose Isaac Okoro to jump into that power forward spot. But they also had Marcus Morris Sr. come off the bench instead of George Niais. And I was seeing the discourse on ex-formerly Twitter during the game and fans were talking about how there were some people that were like, JB must have been reading his mentions or-

looking to the bird app or what once was the bird app for suggestions because there was a point where Sam Merrill, Tristan Thompson, and Marcus Morris Sr. were on the court at the same time and it worked for that short allotted period. Yeah, a little bit.

Chris Fedor (08:47.458)

ish. It worked ish. They scored 15 points in the second quarter. So it worked ish. Let’s put it that way.

Ethan Sands (08:57.239)

fair. Yeah, so they were forced to try something new or try something different in the playoffs. Obviously, they had tried it before in the regular season and had differing options and differing outcomes and stuff like that. But I wanted to get

your guys’ takes on how things messed out and specifically going to Marcus Morris Senior’s impact and what he was able to bring and his knowledge and his playoff experience and because.

I think he was huge. I mean, 12 points doesn’t really add up to all that he was doing. There were big shots, there were big defensive presences, and also just continuing to chatter with not only Evan Mobley and keeping his confidence up, but also Darius Garland and even Max Struths. So Chris, let’s start with you. What did you think about the different rotations that J.U. Bickerstaff went to and also Marcus Morris Sr.’s play in tonight’s game?

Chris Fedor (09:58.262)

Well, I think, um, I think it needs to be said that at various points throughout the course of this series, I’ve asked JB Bickerstaff about adjustments and it feels like he just wants to stare me down and smack me in the face for using the term adjustments. Every time that I brought it up.

But there was a moment that I had, it was just two reporters, it was the Cavs were practicing before game four. They were coming off a loss, it was myself and Joe Varden from the Athletic, and we were there at the Magic Practice Facility that is attached to the arena.

And one of the things that I asked JB was, okay, you obviously had a plan coming into this series and it worked well enough for you to go up 2-0, right? But it didn’t seem to work very well in game three. So at what point do you tell yourself, all right, I had these plans, I had these rotations in mind, I had all these different things that I thought we could do in this series against Orlando, but things changed.

So I need to make adjustments and he kind of stared me down again and he basically said when I get the feeling That it needs to be a change That goes beyond just shot making or variance or however he wanted to phrase it um That he would make a change and I think after the first four games of the series and back-to-back losses against orlando And the series being two games apiece

and now being a best of three, it kind of forces your hand as a coach, where it’s like, okay, I can sit here and say that we just have to make these shots. I can sit here and say that we are executing offensively, we’re just missing these shots. I can sit here and say that, you know, one guy’s just in a shooting funk and he’s going to find his way out of it because he has done that throughout the course of the regular season, and I trust him enough to do that. Like, he could have said that.

Chris Fedor (12:03.494)

Or he could have looked at it and said, okay, through the first four games, it appears that George and Yang is out of place in this particular series. And I think that’s what stood out to me is that when I was watching Marcus Morris Senior tonight,

He looked like a guy who belonged in the series. He looked like a guy who gave the Cavs a fighting chance at both ends of the floor against this particular opponent with their length, with their size, with their athleticism, with the Cavs wanting at times to switch things on the defensive end of the floor. Guys, Marcus Morris Sr. in the fourth quarter of tonight’s game against Orlando made more threes than George Niang made

in the first four games combined. So if Niang is known for three point shooting and he’s not bringing that, JB can’t continue to justify going to him, right? And if Dean Wade would have been healthy during the series, George Niang would have been pulled out of the lineup, I think a lot earlier. But when it comes to Marcus Morris Sr.

Right, it’s a little bit different. This is a veteran guy, this is somebody who didn’t get a whole bunch of minutes throughout the course of the regular season. This is a guy who is older. So I think because he wasn’t relied upon by JB throughout the course of the regular season as much as somebody like Dean.

I think JB was a little bit more hesitant to go to that until he felt absolutely it needed to happen. And Marcus showed why he can still be an impactful player for the Cavs. And it goes beyond just the leadership in the behind the scenes stuff. The pull up jumper that he was willing to take that not a lot of guys on this roster are willing to take changes how the defense can guard this team, right? He gives them enough floor spacing

Chris Fedor (14:05.236)

he’s still a threat from three-point range. He gives them switch ability, he gives them toughness. He can hold up defensively a little bit better I think than George Nian can in this series. So I would not be surprised to continue to see Marcus Morris Sr. in George’s spot in this rotation because he has had more success, albeit one game, he had more success tonight in game five than

Ethan Sands (14:37.611)

And Jimmy, I know we got to listen into multiple different post-game press conferences and all the different guys talked about Marcus’s impact. What stood out to you about his game, but also just the ability to switch and go to somebody else that hadn’t gotten any minutes in the first four games?

Jimmy Watkins (15:01.777)

Well, I think as we talked about on the Hey Chris pod yesterday, I think it helps that was Marcus, honestly. The fact that him and JP have so much inherent trust and background. They’ve been through a lot together. That helped JB make this decision. It’ll help him stick with the decision, as Chris alluded to going forward. Once you trust a guy so much already and then he shows you that, I mean…

Ethan Sands (15:02.343)

or meaningful minutes, I should say. Sorry.

Jimmy Watkins (15:28.929)

You at least gotta give him the first go of it in game six, and then we’ll see what happens. I know it’s the dumb guy thing to point out and say, hey, you made a shot, but like.

I don’t know man, like this guy’s mostly been riding pine for four games of the playoffs. He wasn’t playing a ton before that. Then he comes in and not only like makes shots, makes two of the biggest shots of the entire game. The first three that he made in the fourth quarter, I think they were, I think both of them, they were down. One was to give him the lead. And then the other one from the corner that I think Struz hit him with was to tie the game when they were down three, like late in the fourth quarter. So like that speaks to everything that, that

JB has been saying about Marcus to begin with. He’s at the very least not gonna shy away from it. And I think towards the end of the George Niang experience of this series, like, I don’t know that George Niang was as prepared to step in to some of these shots with as much confidence. Like, it’s, again, another thing we sort of talked about on the podcast today, it’s a very human thing.

to once you start missing shots, to start losing, losing a sense of confidence in the next one that’s gonna go up. Shooters will tell you that can never be where you’re at, but sometimes that’s the reality of the situation. Marcus Morris was ready to let him fly. I don’t know that George Yang was toward the end of his tenure in the series. We’ll see if he makes a comeback, I’m skeptical. But I think something that Marcus said,

after the game stuck out to me, it was kind of interesting. He said he, something, I’m gonna paraphrase him here. There’s, he said something about there being, he felt like he could lead better when he was on the court. And that may seem like a cliche thing, that may seem like a, it’s definitely an intangible thing, hard to wrap your head around. But I think that’s a legit, I think that’s a legitimate thing that we should talk about because.

Chris Fedor (17:20.766)

Yes.

Jimmy Watkins (17:36.853)

It is completely different for, let’s say, Evan Mobley, a guy who’s, they don’t play the same position, but they roam the same areas of the court, to come over and have Marcus Morris point something out to him or offer words of encouragement after a timeout, like, hey, three plays ago, I saw this, what were you saying? It’s an entirely different thing for Marcus Morris to, you know.

give him a pat on the back in real time or talk him through something in real time on the court. Like, what were you reading here? Here’s what I saw. Here’s what my 13 years of playoff experience can give you. That, I think that is, and that’s something that, I mean, George Nye has, you know, a good chunk of playoff experience, but like, Morgan Morris has been through the wars, man. Like, he is borderline Tristan Thompson level.

Chris Fedor (18:09.23)

Mm-hmm.

Chris Fedor (18:27.234)

Yeah.

Jimmy Watkins (18:32.969)

veteran in this in this playoff game. He made the joke after the game that Marcus apparently watches some of his old playoff games to like get himself ready for the playoffs and he was like the first thing that stood out to him was damn I look young here in some of these clips you know. So that’s just I think that just underlines how long he’s been doing it and I think that that’s a poignant observation he made about the difference between leading from the bench leading on the court.

Chris Fedor (18:34.296)

Mm-hmm.

Chris Fedor (18:48.647)

Mm-hmm.

Chris Fedor (18:59.918)

I also thought it was really, really interesting that, you know, fourth quarter, big time shot by Joe Ingalls, a big time shot by Jonathan Isaac.

and J.B. Biggersaff goes to Marcus Morris Sr. to close the game. Plays the final 10 minutes, basically. Takes out Isaac Okoro and goes to Marcus Morris Sr. And I think that points to the trepidation that the Cavs had coming into this series about their ability to play small. Look, they almost had no choice coming into tonight’s game.

They wanted Isaac Ikoro out there to battle with Paulo Banquero. Isaac, even though he gives up size, even though he gives up strength and bulk, he did a good job in the regular season against Paulo. So I think it makes sense that JB would go back to Isaac in this kind of situation where he learns that Jarrett can’t be available. Shift Evan to the five, go to Isaac at the four, use a lineup that you had to use at a different point throughout the course of this season.

But when it came to fourth quarter, he took Isaac out quickly and he went to Marcus. And I think Marcus’ ability to hold up physically and to play with enough size that he did, he’s not the greatest defender at this stage of his career.

but his ability to hold up at that end of the floor and provide a little bit of offensive juice and floor spacing and shooting, it made sense for JB to go that direction.

Chris Fedor (20:41.198)

and it fit well with the other personnel that the Cavs had on the floor. And it’s not surprising to me that the one in four out lineup is the one that JB stuck with for a majority of the fourth quarter. And that was one of the Cavs most effective offensive quarters.

Ethan Sands (21:00.423)

And Chris, I mean, as Marcus Morris has been around for a good chunk, that means that you’ve also gotten to see him in the playoffs before tonight when he played in his second game in the wine and gold, pretty much. So what are your memories of watching Marcus Morris Senior against the Cavs before, obviously, he came to Cleveland this year?

Chris Fedor (21:09.278)

Mm-hmm.

Chris Fedor (21:16.204)

Mm-hmm.

Chris Fedor (21:28.446)

Yeah, he was like the bad boy on the other team that these Cleveland fans hated because he was an irritant.

He would mix it up with Kevin Love, he would mix it up with LeBron James. I remember him shoulder blocking LeBron at one point. And it’s really, really funny to me. This was something that was brought up in the post-game press conference. Donovan Mitchell was talking about Marcus. And he said, you know, big shots, it’s nothing new. And Donovan like goes through the history of Marcus Morris Sr.

And he says, this is a guy that’s been the guy for the Knicks. And like, I totally get it. Donovan is a New York kid, knows about the Knicks very well, knows about the Nets very well, knows about the Cavs and their history very well too. But when you think Mark is more senior, you don’t start with the Knicks. He spent like a cup of coffee there in New York. You think about the other places that he was with for longer stretches.

Boston comes to mind Detroit certainly comes to mind Houston at the beginning of his career and of course it starts by talking about All of his background he starts with the Knicks and I’m like wait like what?

That’s how you remember Marcus as the guy for the Knicks for 30 plus games or something. So I thought that was really funny. But he’s always been the guy who brings a level of physicality, who brings toughness, who brings an edge. He’s the guy that most fanbases hate when he’s on the other side.

Chris Fedor (23:13.106)

and then the fan base loves him when he’s on their side. And you could tell that from the fans tonight. And you’ve been able to tell that since he got here to Cleveland.

Ethan Sands (23:25.855)

Yeah, and I mean, he talked about showing love to them because they’ve given him so much love and not really expecting that because of his history and when he was on the opposite side against the Cavs. And I think that also, you talking about like how the fans where he is love him. We talked to him earlier in the season. He was like, yeah, I mean, I got the key to Philly. Like it was a long time coming. Should have happened like years ago.

Chris Fedor (23:34.734)

Hmm.

Chris Fedor (23:50.014)

Yeah. Yeah, it should have been years ago. I think I should have gotten it years ago. Ha ha ha.

Ethan Sands (23:59.822)

So just thinking about the amount of love that he’s gotten in Cleveland, like we talked to Max Struz after game one. He said it felt like the NBA finals in Rocket Morgan’s field house. So that only speaks to the fandom, what energy can be brought by the fans and how important it is going to be if the Cavs need to come back to Cleveland for game seven. But we’re not there yet.

Chris Fedor (24:10.902)

Ha ha ha.

Jimmy Watkins (24:24.377)

Real quick, real quick, real quick, no disrespect to Max Drews, but I do think his opinion may have been colored by the fact that his NBA Finals home games were played in front of the crowd that arrives 45 minutes late to every game. Just sayin’.

Ethan Sands (24:25.283)

So we’re gonna still focus on.

Chris Fedor (24:34.978)

Ha ha ha!

Chris Fedor (24:40.439)

And you would arrive late too if you lived in South Beach Because there are other things there one there are other things that you want to do before Basketball games and to that traffic is obnoxious. Oh my god. I Know it is it is a fair observation a lot of empty seats there

Jimmy Watkins (24:44.837)

Fair point. Just what happens.

Jimmy Watkins (24:53.637)

Just an observation.

Ethan Sands (25:00.643)

I want to move back to game five and talking about how important it was to see Darius Garland be aggressive in the first quarter. Seventeen points in the first quarter, the most points he had scored in the entire series up until that point in just one quarter of play. We had seen Donovan Mitchell try to ignite the crowd and get things started in the first quarter in games one and two.

and we’ll get to Donovan later, but Jimmy, how important was it for you to see Darius kind of take that uptick and have a shot first mentality like he did tonight?

Jimmy Watkins (25:47.405)

I mean, outside of like, Donovan Mitchell’s knee being healthy, it’s one of the most important things that you can see happen for this team. Because this is not just a Orlando Magic Game 5 first quarter storyline that we’re watching. This is like, future of the Cavs, future of this core storyline that we’re talking about here.

If the Cavs want to win this series, they’re gonna need more of that version of Darius Garland. If the Cavs want to be competitive.

Ethan Sands (26:25.671)

And down goes…

Jimmy Watkins (26:27.397)

Down goes the mic. Okay. If the Cavs want to win this series, I know, I know I’m shaking the table.

Chris Fedor (26:27.841)

Yeah.

Chris Fedor (26:34.25)

With too much talking with your hands, I think.

animated.

Jimmy Watkins (26:40.141)

If the Cavs want to win, yeah. And that’s why I should get a mic stand that’s more than a napkin holder, but that’s something for another day. All right, I’ll start where I was at.

Ethan Sands (26:40.439)

That’s why I hold mine.

Chris Fedor (26:48.738)

Yeah, there you go.

Ethan Sands (26:55.147)

I’m not editing that out.

Chris Fedor (26:56.974)

Smell, smell it. You have to keep that in.

Jimmy Watkins (26:57.025)

Okay, all right. Don’t edit that part out, but like, we need to roll through here. Okay, it’s Darius Garland playing like that is key to them winning the rest of this series. It’s key to them competing with Boston. We should probably talk about competing with Boston before we talk about beating Boston. It’s key to Donovan Mitchell’s future here. It’s key to everything, like.

You look around the NBA, people are saying big threes are dead, but you need a co-star. You need someone to write a shotgun with. You need someone that can pick up the offense when Donovan’s sitting or he doesn’t have it or whatever it is. And I think that’s why the Cavs have been so…

aggressive about pushing Darius to shoot. Shoot. I think Don Mitchell’s direct quote after the game was, I don’t give a damn, shoot the ball. Darius is telling us after the game that literally like it sounds so repetitive, literally everyone in his life. He told, he said to Serena after the game that his family is lighting a fire under him. Like this is like, I get the sense that Darius Garland is the kind of guy who’s been told this for a lot of his life.

Chris Fedor (28:02.027)

Right.

Jimmy Watkins (28:22.841)

because he’s such a gifted passer and he’s such a naturally unselfish player that it might not be his first instinct to get his, but ironically enough, oftentimes, he kind of needs to get his firsts so that teams can…

because that will change how teams defend him and it will be easier for him to help other people if he helps himself first. So that is a long-winded way of saying it is extremely important that Darius Garland had 17 points in the first quarter. It is extremely important that he do it again. And it is extremely important that he builds on this. That, I mean, Donovan was saying during the press conference, he could have shot it more. He should have shot it more. This is, they’re trying to, they’re trying to coax a…

Chris Fedor (29:04.526)

Hmm.

Jimmy Watkins (29:10.437)

They’re trying to coax a Kobe out of Steve Nash right now, basically. That’s what they need in the playoffs. You need like Darius Garland needs to recognize the moment as he did during the game, but it’s a big step forward, particularly after the way he’s been struggling in this series, he recognized. I think his run kind of started, uh, toward the end of that first quarter. I believe Donovan was on the bench for part of that. Yeah. Donovan was on the bench for that.

Chris Fedor (29:33.222)

was on the bench.

Jimmy Watkins (29:36.233)

And so he recognized, okay, time to go. And it started with the little and one that where he kind of attacked in transition, but then you got to see some of the vintage Darius stuff like that twitchy between the legs dribble that he had a couple of positions later, the step back three. That’s what we’ve been waiting to see from this guy and is what we need to see more of going forward.

Chris Fedor (29:59.446)

I’ve had so many different conversations with Darius throughout my time covering him, but one I still remember when him and I sat down for a one-on-one, and one of the questions that I asked him was specifically, why is it so difficult for you to be so selfish? On the court, like we understand that you’re capable of 50 points scoring heights, you’ve shown that. Why is it so difficult? Why is it so outside your nature to be that level of selfish? And he’s talked about how he tries to make the right play,

He’s also talked about how his approach going into most games is to get his teammates involved first to try and get them into a rhythm first and then focus on it with him. Obviously that approach changed coming into tonight’s game five and I do think that shows some more maturity. I also think

This is something that Darius doesn’t quite know yet, doesn’t quite understand yet, because he just hasn’t been through it as much throughout the course of his career, especially in a playoff series. He didn’t do a good enough job recognizing the shift that happened from Orlando from game two to game three. And what I mean by that is, he was no longer being hounded by Jalen Suggs. Jalen Suggs is the best perimeter defender that the Magic have.

He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He got a vote for me for second team, all defensive team. He is going to be on one of the all defensive teams. He has been that level impactful, that level pesky for the Magic defensively. He is the heart and soul of the third ranked defense in the NBA. And he has, Donovan Mitchell is not going to admit it, and he never will because he’s that level star player.

And I think part of it’s his ego as well. But Jaylen Suggs has given Donovan problems. Jaylen Suggs has made it difficult for Donovan to get clean, consistent looks at the basket, to get into the teeth of the pain, to get clean threes on his step back jumper where he usually creates separation, of course. Part of it is Donovan is less than 100%.

Chris Fedor (32:11.978)

But Jaylen Suggs is that level of defender. And in the first couple of games, Suggs was on Darius, and it made sense that it wasn’t Darius type games. It made sense that the Cavs were going other directions for scoring and playmaking, because Darius was basically in Jaylen Suggs vice grip. But when the series shifted to Orlando, I just don’t think Darius did a good enough job of recognizing, ha.

I’m free from that. I’m no longer dealing with that. Donovan’s dealing with that now. Good luck to him. I’m dealing with Gary Harris. Like no offense to Gary Harris or anything like that. Yeah, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got a defensive background. He’s been in playoff battles throughout the course of his career. But I’m bleeping Darius Garland. Like I gotta be able to find a way to blow by this guy.

I gotta be able to find a way to take advantage of this particular matchup. And I think you saw tonight in game five, like every time he was guarded by somebody other than Jaylen Suggs, it was almost as if Darius, the bright lights like flickered in his own mind of…

I can cook this guy in front of me, are you kidding me? I can use my speed, I can use my quickness, I can use my change of pace, I can use my dribble, I can use my ability to create space to get off these three point shots. And if he’s going to continue to take this mentality moving forward to the Cavs, it’s obviously going to be a huge benefit. And by the way guys,

This is why you don’t take Darius Garland out of the freaking starting lineup. Because he’s capable of this. This level of disruption that he brings to an opposing defense. This ability to break down a defense.

Chris Fedor (34:09.77)

Karis Laverte can’t do it to the same level, right? Sam Merrill can’t do it to the same level. Isaac Okoro certainly can’t do it to the same level. You need somebody like this that is capable of this. And the Cavs ceiling as a starting lineup, the Cavs ceiling as a team, is going to be higher with somebody who’s capable of these kinds of knights.

Ethan Sands (34:34.692)

And I think my favorite one when he was in a one-on-one situation Like you were talking about when you saw somebody in front of him. He’s like hmm. I can’t cook him I literally said like out loud. I was like it’s Franz Wagner There you have at least a good mile per hour If not more on him on a breakaway speed and he literally like has he has he curled? Looked at him and said oh, yeah

Chris Fedor (34:38.232)

Hmm.

Chris Fedor (34:44.907)

Yeah.

Chris Fedor (34:49.228)

Right.

Chris Fedor (34:53.483)

Yeah.

Chris Fedor (35:02.578)

Yeah.

Ethan Sands (35:02.583)

Forgot I can do this and go straight to the basket with his left and I’m like every time please like and Sure first quarter Darius was different from scoring Darius for the rest of the game He had six points for the rest of the game. We finished with 23 points, but The idea the topic the The growth of what we saw from quarter one is what we’re talking about

Needing to continue from Darius and he said he’s gonna take that same mindset Into Orlando. It’s a different atmosphere Chris you have mentioned it on multiple times during this podcast before that younger guys feed off the arena and Terry’s Garland feeds off the rocket like every time he talks about a rocket mortgage fieldhouse He lights up because he loves the aura

Chris Fedor (35:39.918)

Mm-hmm.

Ethan Sands (35:58.751)

He loves the energy and you can see him screaming with fans and all of that after every possession when he’s at home. Can he do th-

Chris Fedor (36:06.678)

Well, here’s the other layer to this too. This cannot be overlooked. Gary Harris, who has had the primary defensive assignment against Darius for the last two games, he started against Donovan Mitchell in this series, he did not play for a majority of the game because he injured his hamstring. And he was not able to return to the game. He played five minutes or so in the second half.

and then he was ruled out with a hamstring strain. Okay, those are tricky. Game six is Friday night. If Gary Harris cannot play, that changes the starting lineup for the Magic, number one, and that changes the matchup for Darius. Who guards Darius now? Because we know that Suggs is probably going to be on Donovan just the way that he has recently. That was one of the adjustments that they made after losing back-to-back games.

Um, so who guards Darius? Is it gonna be Markel Foltz? Cole Anthony? Joe Ingles? Like, are they gonna go-

Jimmy Watkins (37:14.829)

I wonder if they’ll go Isaac, I would think.

Ethan Sands (37:17.057)

What does Shaq say? Barbecue chicken.

Chris Fedor (37:19.83)

Are they gonna go super size and find a way to get Jonathan Isaac in there in those minutes and You know have him switch and try and disrupt Darius. Are they gonna trap Darius? Like I just wonder what the Magic are going to do from a defensive standpoint If their strategy is forced to change and if some of their matchups are forced to change

Jimmy Watkins (37:43.245)

Yeah, Cole Anthony is not the answer to any defensive question. And Markle Foltz has the size, but my goodness, Donovan was cooking him tonight a couple of times, like just looked lost out there. I really do, like, I think it’s gonna be Isaac. I really do.

Chris Fedor (37:47.75)

No, neither is Mark L. Fultz. He’s got the size, he’s got the length, he’s got the athleticism. Yeah.

Chris Fedor (38:03.918)

That is quite a lineup if they go fast. That is the biggest lineup in the history of the NBA, I think. Talking about four guys over six foot 10. That would be wild if they went that direction. And again, this doesn’t mean that Harris is definitely going to miss, but he’s an older guy. It’s a hamstring injury. It’s a muscle. Those things take time. Those things can be aggravated. Even if you do play through it.

Jimmy Watkins (38:05.521)

Ha ha ha!

Chris Fedor (38:32.47)

You’re not as effective because you’re still favoring it, because you don’t have the same change of direction. That’s something to watch going into game six.

Ethan Sands (38:43.131)

And I think you have to go after talking about Darius, go to his running mate and talk about Donovan Mitchell. Had 14 points in the first half, didn’t have any points in the third quarter, kinda gave some fans a scare and was like, oh no, Donovan Mitchell’s not gonna score again in the second half. And then he had 14 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. A lot.

Chris Fedor (38:53.038)

I’m

Ethan Sands (39:09.203)

of which came at the free throw line, drawing contact, doing whatever he could because he looked like a guy that was trying to will that team to a victory, doing whatever it took to get the dub. Jimmy, what are your thoughts on Diamond’s performance tonight because I know it was up and down.

Jimmy Watkins (39:27.893)

Even the fourth quarter, I wouldn’t call it like a vintage closer kind of performance. It’s kind of his arc for the evening kind of followed the Cavs, where it’s just like not all of it’s pretty, but got the job done kind of thing. But I think that…

Jimmy Watkins (39:53.767)

I worry about…

his knee as the series progresses. I think it’s getting harder. It’s getting harder. It’s getting harder for him as game stack, particularly if Cleveland wins this series. I think the second round, there’s not as much time between games. Be fascinated to see how they’re going to, I mean, there’s not really a way to manage his minutes, but I just want to see how that progresses. It adds even more.

Chris Fedor (39:59.984)

You think?

Jimmy Watkins (40:25.821)

importance to closing this one out on the road. You want to get as much time as you can, right? But I just, I’m still, it’s a triumphant moment for him in the fourth quarter to score 14 points, triumphant moment for the Cavs to pull that game out. I still don’t feel great about where we’re at with Donovan Mitchell right now, health-wise.

Ethan Sands (40:48.531)

I mean, the dude grimaced getting out of the chair from his post game. Oh, we’re talking about two different things, yeah.

Jimmy Watkins (40:51.877)

He stayed down. He was down for what? Two, three minutes? At one point in the second half? Yeah, we were talking about two different things, but like, he, I mean, that was a big scare. And you can even just like, even him walking to the podium, he’s like, I mean, like, he’s wearing slides, but like, he’s, he’s not walking right. He’s not walking right.

Ethan Sands (41:16.267)

He’s got that basketball walk for sure. But I was talking about when he like grimaced getting up from the postgame presser, like just like a 30, 40 year old man just getting out of a chair. I was like, God, you’re not old yet, man. But.

Chris Fedor (41:29.522)

Easy. Ha ha ha. Yeah, I mean, so I saw Donovan before the game. Um, every time he comes out to warm up, it’s, it’s around the same time. And his personal trainer is Murphy Grant. And there were multiple times during Donovan’s warmup session where he just kind of like stopped and he had a conversation with Murphy and he kept pointing.

to the outside of his knee. And I don’t know what was said because I wasn’t close enough because I was taking video from a little bit further away. But it seemed to be a conversation of, this is kind of where I’m feeling pain here. What can we do about this? Can we go back into the locker room and put something on this? Why do you think I’m feeling pain at this point? And then after the game,

He did the same thing with Murphy. He kept pointing to that same area on the outside of his left knee, and he kept basically indicating, this is where I’m feeling the pain, what can we do to manage this, why do you think I am feeling pain here? So this is just something that Donovan is going to continue to manage as the series goes on. He’s not going to make excuses. He’s going to continue to say, I’m good, I’m good, I’m 100 percent, but he’s not himself.

The best game that he played in this series was game one, after he had an extended layoff before that. And he was fresh, and he was rejuvenated, and he had extra time to recover and extra time to heal. These games are coming quick, right? Um, it’s just not the same. When you’re playing 40 minutes, it’s going to take you longer to recover. When you’re playing 40 minutes…

and you’re dealing with tendonitis in your left knee, it’s going to take even longer to recover. So it’s just something that he’s going to have to manage. It’s something that the Cavs are going to have to manage. And I just think the virtuoso Donovan performances, like game one, that was spectacular all around for Donovan. I just think, unfortunately, those are probably going to be more of the outlier.

Chris Fedor (43:47.314)

And I think he’s just going to have to gut through it and find a way. And if it means a little bit of inefficiency from the field, inefficiency from three point range, um, to, to get his numbers, then maybe that’s what it’s going to be. Um, but, but I wouldn’t look at tonight’s game, even though he was, uh, terrific in the fourth quarter and gave them a lot of scoring and clutch, um, free throws.

I would not look at tonight’s game, game five, and say, you know, that was a good Donovan Mitchell performance. He scored his points. He helped the Cavs offensively. He was aggressive. He was attack-minded. He got himself to the free throw line. He was able to get six rebounds, but I don’t think this was necessarily a good Donovan performance. I think this is one that he would be critical of too.

Ethan Sands (44:42.119)

I think the other thing to note that if the Celtics win tomorrow and the Cavs win in game 6, that the Cavs will end up in Boston for game 1 on Sunday. So that’s also a quick turnaround when we’re talking about injury healing and time to recover and things like that. That’s also something that I wanted to mention. But

Chris Fedor (44:51.095)

Hmm

Chris Fedor (44:54.362)

Sunday. Yup.

Chris Fedor (45:05.962)

At this point, the majority of the remainder, however long, the Cavs are going to be in the playoffs. I think the longest stretch that they would probably have for a Donovan potential recovery or rejuvenation is three days. It’s not really a lot.

Ethan Sands (45:26.047)

Not at all. Alright, I think we touched on almost everybody, but I know we want to quickly touch on Max

Jimmy Watkins (45:36.569)

Yeah, real quick, let’s just touch on the guy.

Chris Fedor (45:36.886)

What about Sam Merrill? We’re not gonna do a second- We’re not gonna do a second straight podcast on Sam Merrill?

Ethan Sands (45:40.91)

You’re

Jimmy Watkins (45:45.797)

Well, no, we have, the Sam Earl episode is separate, Chris, obviously. He gets his own episode.

Chris Fedor (45:48.944)

Oh, alright. I guess. Yeah. Ha ha

Ethan Sands (45:51.071)

That’s an exclusive.

Ethan Sands (45:56.791)

Go ahead.

Jimmy Watkins (45:56.966)

We’ll do nine minutes for every one minute that Sam Mero played tonight.

Chris Fedor (46:02.59)

Yeah. I mean, he’s in a tough role. If we’re being perfectly honest, it is a tough role. It is a lot of pressure where you know as a guy who is only out there for shooting, if you don’t make shots, you’re getting yanked. And, you know, before you could blink, before you could snap your finger, Sam Merrill was in and out of the game. Because he had an opportunity to make two threes, he didn’t.

Ethan Sands (46:02.604)

Jesus Christ.

Chris Fedor (46:28.642)

and JB Biggerstaff just doesn’t feel like he provides enough value in the other things. Like yeah, the spacing’s there, the gravity’s there, the movement’s there, but if he’s not making shots, it’s just going to continue to be hard for JB and this coaching staff to justify consistent minutes for him. He at this point in his career is a specialist, and if that specialty is not happening, then

I think we understand what’s going to happen. He’s going to go to the bench.

Ethan Sands (47:01.291)

Jimmy, you seem like you were about to add something before we got to Evan and Max. Did you want to go ahead and do that?

Jimmy Watkins (47:08.549)

Oh yeah, I just think we should definitely be talking a lot about Evan. Dude won the game.

Ethan Sands (47:15.135)

Yeah, I mean, he had the game ceiling block. He was awesome on the boards, especially without Jarrett Allen, who had 38 rebounds in the first two games at home. And I mean, game ceiling block, he had also, I believe it was 14 points. So being able to be off efficient on the offense of then and getting passes from Darius and

Ethan Sands (47:43.455)

Evan Mobley is a guy that the Cavs franchise understands if they want to take the next step, they want to go to the next level, he has to be successful. He is the cliche, the quote unquote, unicorn that everybody hates calling him nowadays. So Jimmy, what did you specifically like from Evan tonight because of the circumstance of everything going on around him?

Jimmy Watkins (48:12.689)

I mean, I think for starters, the play that won the game, the block on Franz Wagner is like a one of three, one of two guys on planet earth can make that play. It’s a, that’s the unicorn play right there. I mean, the offense is still coming along, but defensively, Evan Mobley is already, is already in the same breath with, you know, any of the top defenders in this game. That was unbelievable. Watching it back.

I think we can maybe, I’m wondering why Franz Wagner didn’t go up with his left hand, but I don’t know. Heat of the moment, heat of the moment decision. I also think just as a, okay, you’re on the left side. You’re on the left side though. You’re on the left side and it’s like, I don’t know. Whatever, we can break down that film later. Evan, I also just think like big picture without your big man running mate, and like, I guess we should give like,

Chris Fedor (48:51.15)

because he’s right-handed.

Ethan Sands (48:52.992)

I’m out.

Chris Fedor (48:55.379)

I know that, but even still.

Jimmy Watkins (49:12.997)

guys like Marcus Morris and Trista Thompson, an assist on this for filling in behind Evan. But this is the fewest points in the paint that the Magic have scored in this series. The Cavs got out rebounded, I think by like four, but they held their own. Everyone in the starting lineup grabbed at least four or five rebounds, something like that. For the Cavs to hold up inside,

the way they did without Jarrett Allen is pretty remarkable, especially given the opponent, how physical and how attack-minded Orlando is about getting to the rim. And everyone deserves credit, but Mobley is the foundation of that. He was outstanding tonight. The block that we won’t remember that stuck in my mind is the two-handed block that he had in the first half, second or third quarter.

And then I think he, then he led the break and started a whip around just, I think that possession ended up in a three. Like that guy was outstanding tonight.

Ethan Sands (50:22.551)

Coast to Coast Evan Mobley? Good Lord. Watch out NBA. Chris, what did you think about Evan Mobley’s performance tonight and what he’s meant for this team all season? And obviously we’ve talked about injuries throughout the course of the year, but this guy has dealt with probably more injuries than anybody else, maybe other than Darius Garland, and continues to come back. We almost gave him the nickname Wolverine earlier this year, but he is just

consistent and in a game that they needed him, he showed up. Sounds like a recurring theme to me for Evan Mo-

Chris Fedor (51:00.414)

care if people like it or not, he is a game wrecking unicorn on the defensive end of the floor. Period. When he was guarding any Orlando player in the first half, with him as the primary defender, Orlando shot one of six from the field. Coming into tonight’s game, like Paulo

Chris Fedor (51:27.094)

He got off to a rough start in this series, games 1 and 2, he was turning the ball over, he was inefficient, but as soon as he got back to Orlando, he has been great. And he carried that over to tonight. But that hasn’t come against Evan Mobley. Evan Mobley is the guy that Orlando is trying to avoid on the defensive end of the floor.

That’s the level of respect that he has commanded already this early in his career in a playoff series. Because in the two games in Orlando, the Magic were trying everything that they could do to get switches, to get the matchup that they wanted, to get Evan off of Paolo. Because coming into tonight’s game, in nearly 20 matchup minutes, Evan Mobley has held Paolo Bencaro to 17 points.

on 7 of 25 shooting, 1 of 6 from 3 point range, while forcing 6 turnovers against just 4 assists and Paolo has only gotten to the free throw line 4 times. Now that’s NBA.com’s matchup data. It can be wonky at times, but that tells you the kind of impact that Evan has had throughout the course of this series. His primary responsibility in the first 4 games was to neutralize Paolo.

Evan did, George Niang didn’t, right? Isaac Okoro didn’t, Jarrett Allen didn’t, Donovan Mitchell didn’t. Paulo Bencaro was having success against basically every other defender on the Cavs, other than Evan Mobley. And you can say the same thing for other guys on the Magic, because he has been that level disruptive, that level impactful on the defensive end of the floor, this entire series.

Beyond that, here’s the other thing that I think is meaningful to the Cavs moving forward. And this is a bigger picture conversation for another podcast and for another day. But I thought Evan holding up at the five was pretty significant. Because at some point, the Cavs are going to have to make a decision between Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. They’re going to. Because the evolution for Evan Mobley

Chris Fedor (53:48.614)

is to become a five. Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett started as fours, turned into fives. That’s what this league is, right? Victor Wemba Nyama started changing worlds the minute that he went from the four to the five this year as a rookie. You know, Chet Holmgren, you’re seeing the same thing. That is Evan’s future. And I think there’s a legitimate question about

Can he hold up physically if he plays full-time center? Now this is just one series, this is just one team, this is one opponent, this is one matchup, this is one style of center that he’s playing against in this particular series. But it feels like to me, when Jarrett’s not on the floor, or like a situation tonight, where Jarrett wasn’t healthy enough to play at all,

Evan being able to survive at the five and in some cases thrive at the five is pretty big when it comes to future decision making for the Cavs. And I thought for them to be able to control the paint the way that they did with Evan at the five and no Jarrett Allen for them to hold their own on the boards with no Jarrett and Evan at the five, I thought that was pretty meaningful. It tells me that sooner than later.

Evan is going to be ready to be a full-time center in the NBA.

Ethan Sands (55:17.907)

And Chris, I want to point out, like you said, this isn’t… This is just one version of Center that he’s playing against. This isn’t the Knicks. This isn’t whoever. But…

Chris Fedor (55:26.538)

Yes, that’s great. This is not Joellen Bede. Right.

Ethan Sands (55:31.299)

Correct. But this is still a big team, a big physical team. And I think that point comes to mind for me. And I think that’s another thing that stood out is like, like you said, he was able to survive, sometimes thrive. And being able to do that against the Magic, some team that is known for its paint presence, known for being physical and getting into dirty work. And we saw tonight, there were a lot of fouls that were not called on either end.

because that’s how the playoffs are. And I wanted to reiterate my agreement on that because of how far Evan Mobley has come, not only this season, but in his career, to growing and potentially becoming the Cavaliers Five whenever they deem it to be ready.

Chris Fedor (56:17.75)

Yeah, like can he still get physically overpowered at times? Of course. He’s pretty slender, right? But he’s stronger than he was last year, right? He’s more evolved on both ends of the floor than he was last year. And you’re seeing a guy like continue to mature. And I think that’s a big deal. He’s been good in this series, guys. Even with his offensive limitations, he’s been good in this series.

Jimmy Watkins (56:18.673)

It’s all encompassing.

Ethan Sands (56:22.248)

Yes.

Jimmy Watkins (56:47.473)

And it’s all encompassing, right? Like, I feel like the Magic’s best offense this series has been a bad Cavs offensive possession, and then let’s just try to score and transition the other way. And there are going to be fewer of those if there’s only one big dude in the paint. And Donovan Mitchell was explaining spacing in the post-game press conferences tonight about, you know, what if Jonathan Isaac has to…

come from the all the way from the wing or from the corner rather than just stand right here like that’s that as big as we were talking about with Darius for the future of this team like Evan’s the key to kind of unlock it all.

Chris Fedor (57:27.598)

Oh, and they know that too. I mean, there have been people inside this organization that have said, on record, we’re not hanging another banner until Evan Mobley is the best player on this team. And I think fans wanted it to happen a little bit sooner. This season was pretty wonky for him because he missed about half of it with multiple injuries that certainly played a part in his development that certainly set him back.

from taking that leap that I think a lot of people expected him to take, the leap that Evan himself wanted to take, but here he is in his second playoff series, and you’re right Ethan, this is not the Knicks. This most certainly is not Philly with Joe Ellen Beade. This is one specific opponent, but he’s capitalizing on the opportunities that he is getting, and he is showing that the stage is not too big for him.

that he’s not going to be pushed around the way that he was last year. The decision-making is coming quicker for Evan. It doesn’t feel like the game is moving as fast as it did in the Knicks series and on the defensive end of the floor. I mean there have been moments where he has gambled a little bit too much and JB Bickerstaff tore into him for that.

And there have been times where, you know, he’s gotten caught on a pump fake and he’s fouled a little bit more than what a lot of people believe he did throughout the course of the regular season. But he has been so good defensively that Orlando’s trying to avoid him as much as they possibly can because they understand that is even with Paulo, even as talented as he is.

even as good of a shot maker as he is. He’s a freaking all-star. He’s their leading scorer. Even with somebody that talented, Orlando is trying to find a way to get a different matchup than Evan, because that’s not an advantageous one for the Magic. We have five games of evidence now that show Evan Mobley is going to be in Palo’s nightmares.

Ethan Sands (59:50.308)

I like that. Alright, this is how we know that this was an overall team win when we’ve talked about almost everybody in the starting lineup. And then some. And that’s what we knew was necessary for this Cavs team to be successful in this series and also Chris to score over 100 points. And they finally did it.

Chris Fedor (01:00:11.57)

They finally did it. Does it count? Does it count because they got some chippy free throws at the end of the game? It counts. It counts! It has to count.

Ethan Sands (01:00:20.799)

It has to. It has to. It has to. I mean, they had to get the free throws to win the game, Chris.

Jimmy Watkins (01:00:27.543)

I already popped confetti, so it better count.

Chris Fedor (01:00:31.022)

I mean, their offensive rating was only 105.7, but we’ll ignore that. We’ll set that aside, and we’ll say that they have now cracked this entry mark twice in the playoffs in the last two years in the JV Picker Staff Air.

Ethan Sands (01:00:31.504)

Not confetti.

Jimmy Watkins (01:00:40.869)

Hey, what’s that? Four points better than the Knicks rating last year? That’s progress right there.

Ethan Sands (01:00:49.859)

I, you guys, oh my goodness. So the last person I wanted to talk about tonight was Max Struce, and Chris, you hit the nail on the head talking about there was gonna be one or two games where Max Struce had three, four, five three-pointers, and it was just gonna reawaken him. Yet, we have to wait and see if he is reawakened in game six, but for game five, he was back, and he was confident.

and Max Struis saw one of the first early threes go down. And I mean, it looked like he was ready to chuck up anything that was going in, that was going into his hands. And that’s the kind of thing that we needed from Max. He hadn’t taken a whole lot of threes earlier in the series. We saw George Nye take one three pointer in his last game. Like the confidence that we’ve talked about with the shooters and Jimmy said it on the last podcast.

Some shooters mentalities are really soft when it comes to make or miss, but Max being able to just continue to shoot the ball even when he hadn’t had success earlier in the series shows mental toughness 1, 2, readability for him to be able to just keep going and then I mean he was making them. So him having 16 points.

but also being able to impact most sides of the court and also grab rebounds was huge for the Cavs tonight. He’s been huge on the boards all season and he’s been huge on the boards on this series specifically even more so. Jimmy, what did you think about Max’s performance tonight and just being able to start hitting his shots?

Jimmy Watkins (01:02:38.201)

First of all, I would like Max Drew’s, friends and family of Max Drew’s to know that I did not call him soft. Cause that guy’s, that guy scares me a little bit. So I don’t want that. I don’t want that out there. I agreed, agreed. I said shooters, shoot, fragile, different, different. Very different. Fragile and soft, very different. But I wasn’t.

Ethan Sands (01:02:43.651)

Yes!

Ethan Sands (01:02:48.791)

That’s not what I said. I didn’t say you said he was soft. Yeah, you didn’t say, I didn’t say you said he was soft. I said you said that some shooter’s mentality were fragile. Soft and fragile. Oh.

Chris Fedor (01:02:49.71)

I don’t think anybody could call him.

Chris Fedor (01:02:59.662)

different, very different than soft.

Jimmy Watkins (01:03:08.349)

I would never call Max fragile to his face either. So just wanna get that clear. As a matter of fact, I know Max Drews isn’t fragile because he took a fricking shoulder to the chest. I think it was from Palo in the third quarter of this game and like he laid down there for a second and I was, I didn’t know if he was gonna get up, man. That was an absolute, he really does give up his body.

Ethan Sands (01:03:10.935)

Yeah

Chris Fedor (01:03:17.98)

Oh my god.

Jimmy Watkins (01:03:36.493)

for the team. That guy works so darn hard. So there might be a little bit of basketball karma happening here with the shooting night that he had. But I think what, like we were talking about with the areas too, like the, it’s good in general that Max Drews is making threes, but like this moment was so important.

for him to make these threes. You’re missing about 15 points a game from Jarrett Allen. You won the game by a point. The Magic made a three at the end to cut it down from four. But like, if you really look at this box score guys, like 12 points for Marcus Morris Sr., 16 for Max Struce, who wasn’t hitting anything before this game. Like Darius had his best game with the series. If these guys don’t step up.

We could be on a panic podcast right now. Like this could have gone a hundred different ways, but again, Max Deuce, this is where the topic that he hates the most, heat culture, I think comes into play. Like the pressure just, I don’t, he rolls off of this guy. He’s seen it.

He is what Darius Gardner was talking about after the Orlando game that I didn’t like. He actually has, Max Schuers has seen all this stuff, done it, lived through it, had bad games on bigger stages, had good games on bigger stages. So when he is missing shots in the playoffs, it really is just a matter of seeing one go down, I guess, because he has a sense for…

He has a sense for me in the moment. I don’t know, that’s like the worst, most cliche sports talk that exists, but I firmly believe it. I saw it with my eyes. And I also, I just want to commend Max Dries for how freaking hard he works on the non-shooting parts of his game, man. That guy’s a warrior.

Chris Fedor (01:05:31.27)

Yes.

Ethan Sands (01:05:32.647)

I’m sorry to tell you Jimmy, I doubt he listens to this podcast, but I’m sure somebody feels your sentiment. Being up by an NBA player is insane. But moving on, Chris, what were your thoughts? I know you have raved about Max Drews and his abilities this season, and I’m excited to hear what you have to say about his quote unquote comeback game.

Jimmy Watkins (01:05:38.669)

I’m just trying not to get beat up, dude. That’s all.

Chris Fedor (01:05:56.462)

Does that mean I can take a victory lap now? Maybe? Possibly? No, that’s alright.

Ethan Sands (01:06:00.308)

If you want to get up and walk around from the podcast, feel free.

Jimmy Watkins (01:06:03.853)

A win for shooting variance. Let’s go.

Chris Fedor (01:06:05.714)

I know right look there were a few things that max did tonight, and I was like oh my god Hit the side of the backboard on a hoisted three even though there was like four seconds on the shot clock There are two horrendous air balls Some of the worst passes you’re going to see from max I think No, not at all. I mean like those things happened, and you certainly can’t ignore them and at one point

Ethan Sands (01:06:26.307)

Chris might be trying to get beat up. What?

Chris Fedor (01:06:35.058)

I think he was 2 of 6 or 2 of 8 from 3 point range, and this is where I’m going with this. Even though there are those things, those blemishes on tonight’s resume, I didn’t care about any of that, because I saw a guy who was impacting the game in a positive way. And that’s what it comes down to. When it’s max, he finds a way to impact the game.

Even if he’s not making shots, he was impacting the game. He was providing energy on defense, hustle on defense, 50-50 balls, battling on the rebounds. He was obviously spacing the floor because he does that. He was creating movement for the team offensively. He was taking attention from the defense, from Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, whoever was guarding those guys. He just has a way.

Like the people that focus so much on Max and his shooting percentages are just missing it. The people that are focusing on some of the bad plays that he has throughout the course of a game because he is going to have them, but they’re just missing it. He understands how to impact winning at a high level. And he is somebody that the Cavs need.

He is somebody that they need in their starting lineup to bring it together. And he is the kind of player that they need in this playoff run because he’s been there, done that, because he understands how to handle pressure moments. Um, and that doesn’t mean he’s always going to come through and it doesn’t mean that he’s always going to make these three pointers that he takes, but he’s not going to look rattled. He’s not going to allow himself to get pushed around.

He’s not going to look like the moment is too big for him. There was a moment in the second half, late in the game actually, late in the fourth quarter, where Max, during a time out, Max put his arm around JB Bickerstaff and they discussed a specific defensive strategy because Max had seen something that Orlando was trying to do. Like that basketball IQ, that knowledge, that playoff experience.

Chris Fedor (01:08:57.77)

That is something that the Cavs need as they continue to go through however long this playoff run lasts. And he’s going to need to be this level of impactful going into game six on the road, because he’s a guy that has been there, done that.

He’s a guy who understands what it takes to win playoff games on the road. Not a lot of other guys on this roster have the experience of winning playoff games on the road. You know how many playoff games on the road Darius Garland has won? Uh, zero. Evan Mobley, same thing. Isaac Okoro, same thing. So they’re gonna lean on Max. And they have leaned on Max throughout the course of this series. Um, and, and this kind of game…

to me, only enhances the value that he already had.

Jimmy Watkins (01:09:50.161)

Just to add to the resiliency point with Max, first of all, I had forgotten how ugly those first few shots were. They were late in the clock, but I was even, but like three or four seconds late in the clock, like take another dribble. Like whatever you just put up could not have been the shot that you just put up, but also, I’m not sure anyone got a tougher whistle tonight.

Chris Fedor (01:09:55.694)

Oh my god. They were. Grenades.

Jimmy Watkins (01:10:11.533)

than Max did. Like he might’ve, he put it, who ran more on the court tonight? Sam Merrill playing basketball or Max Struce running away from the officials so they wouldn’t catch him making a face? I don’t know.

Chris Fedor (01:10:23.318)

Yeah.

There was also a play that Max made, and I briefly mentioned it to him following the game, and he was like, whatever it takes. He had to have run 160 total feet, and I know the court is 94 feet. So think about that. He started at one end, he made his way all the way down at the other end to try and like reach in and steal a ball, didn’t get it, but then he got back in transition in time.

Ethan Sands (01:10:27.14)

Eh.

Chris Fedor (01:10:54.71)

to slow down a break, it was just that kind of effort on a possession to possession basis. It’s tone setting. Guys watch that and they’re like, I gotta do stuff like that. If Max is going to do all of that stuff while running around every single possession on offense to try and get himself free and create triggers for this team, if Max is willing to do all of that.

I gotta do that kind of stuff too. So that level of effort that he was willing to give, that can be infectious.

Ethan Sands (01:11:32.211)

Yeah, I mean, there’s obviously different ways to lead, and he’s definitely a lead by example kind of guy. And obviously we’re not in the locker room with them all the time, so we don’t know how vocal he is. But I noticed that he’ll talk to the media or whatever, and then quote unquote break character. And as soon as he’s done, and go talk to his teammates or say something crazy as he’s walking into the shower with his teammates.

Chris Fedor (01:11:44.759)

Mm-hmm.

Ethan Sands (01:12:01.835)

And I’m like, dog, why don’t we get any of this energy from Max Trills? And I mean, that’s just the professionalism that he holds and how he interacts with the media and stuff. And I mean, he still gives us great stuff to work with and great things to talk about. But it’s like there’s two different people in there that we don’t really get to see the other part of.

Chris Fedor (01:12:05.495)

Yeah.

Chris Fedor (01:12:24.842)

You could also tell how much him making threes tonight just sent juice through the team and through the crowd and even Max too was very, very animated. If there was anybody else on this team that needed to see the ball go through the hoop from three point range.

Other than Max, I don’t know, you tell me who needed it more than him. He was shooting 17% from three point range coming into tonight’s game through the first four against Orlando. And many of those actually, based on NBA.com’s tracking data, many of those were open or wide open threes. So for him to see those go through, you could tell what that meant.

Ethan Sands (01:13:11.459)

I’m just gonna say George Yang and then end the podcast. That’s all I’m gonna say. Okay. Alright. And that’ll wrap up today’s episode of the Wine and Gold Talk Podcast. Yes, we’re closing in on 3AM EST while recording this podcast. And Chris, Jimmy, and myself still have to go write to give you guys more things to talk about, read, and listen to coming into the morning.

Chris Fedor (01:13:14.006)

Yeah, that’s true.

Ethan Sands (01:13:41.319)

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