All-Star Garland drops 27 in return, leads Cavs past Spurs | Basketball

By TOM WITHERS – AP Sportswriter

CLEVELAND (AP) — Darius Garland showed no rust. He shone like an All-Star.

Garland scored 27 points in his return from a back injury and Caris LeVert added 11 in his debut for Cleveland, leading the Cavaliers to a 105-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night in their final game at home before hosting the All-Star. Game.

Garland, who has missed the last four games with lower back pain, showed why he was voted All-Star for the first time. He made 12 of 15 shots, added six assists, five rebounds and got Cleveland’s offense back on track.

“It was great to be with the guys and have our new play, LeVert, with us,” Garland said.

Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell scored 18 goals each and All-Star Dejounte Murray scored 16 for the Spurs, which opened an eight-game road trip.

San Antonio cut a 23-point deficit to seven in the fourth quarter before Garland, who played 30 minutes and wore a wrap while on the bench, hit a pull and LeVert fed Jarrett Allen for a lay- up to put the Cavs back in control. .

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“They’re good. They’re big. They play hard,” Spurs guard Derrick White said. “Garland is an All-Star for a reason. They play their role well and they know their team.”

It was just one game, but Cleveland seems like a more complete team with LeVert. Garland said his arrival has given the NBA’s most surprising team an emotional lift and the confidence that they can make this season even better.

“They believe in us that we can do something special,” Garland said of the Cleveland front office. “As long as we have the same belief in the dressing room, we can go as far as we want.”

Rookie Evan Mobley had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Allen added 15 points and 14 boards.

Believing they can make a deep playoff run, the Cavs acquired LeVert from the Indiana Pacers on Sunday in exchange for guard Ricky Rubio and draft picks.

LeVert received a loud ovation from the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse crowd when he checked in with 6:37 left in the first quarter, and quickly made his presence felt by driving and delivering a corner pass for the pointer at 3 points from Isaac Okoro.

LeVert, 27, is a proven scorer capable of creating his own shot. He gives Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff another offensive weapon, a long defenseman and potential new formations.

“When he’s comfortable, I think it’s going to be really scary,” Garland said of his new teammate. “He gets to his places, makes it easier to read and opens people up.”

Trailing 34-33, the Cavs jumped over the Spurs with a 20-4 run in the second quarter.

Rajon Rondo started the push with a 3-pointer and LeVert, Cedi Osman and Garland hit shots from long range to give Cleveland a 13-point lead.

The Cavs opened the third quarter with a 12-2 flurry and pushed their lead to 73-50 on Okoro’s follow-up shot.

Spurs: Coach Gregg Popovich was impressed this summer with Garland, who was in training camp with the US Olympic team. “He stepped in and did everything we expected of him,” Popovich said. “From day one, he gobbled it up.” … Murray is San Antonio’s first All-Star since LaMarcus Aldridge in 2019.

Cavaliers: Garland’s only flaws were six turnovers. … Earned their seventh straight win at home. … Garland, Mobley, Okoro and Allen received All-Star Game commemorative balls before the game. The quartet will all take part in the festivities next weekend. … F Lauri Markkanen (ankle) missed his eighth game in a row.

Rarely lost for words, Popovich wasn’t quite sure how to react after being voted one of the NBA’s 15 Greatest Coaches.

“It’s a little awkward,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling. It humbles you to your knees.

As part of its 75th anniversary, the league selected a panel of 43 current and former coaches to choose the best in their profession.

A five-time champion and three-time coach of the year, Popovich, who has six wins after passing Don Nelson for first on the career list, is a no-brainer.

“It’s a little weird,” he said. “It’s not something where you grew up in the game and said, ‘One day I’m going to do this. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great players and coaches, staff and I’ve been doing it for a long time so someone saw fit to put me on this list.

“It’s definitely an honor to be in this group of people, but it’s still kind of an out-of-body experience.”

San Antonio was part of a three-team trade with Portland and Utah before Thursday’s deadline.

The Trail Blazers acquired forward Joe Ingles from the Jazz. Portland also got Elijah Hughes and a second-round pick from Utah, which got Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Blazers and Juancho Hernangomez from the Spurs.

Portland sent Tomas Satoransky to San Antonio, who also got a 2027 draft pick from Utah.

“Just playing him, I know he’s playing hard. He’s smart, he’s after it,” White said of Satoransky. hopefully he will help us win a few games.”

Spurs: Visit Atlanta on Friday.

Cavaliers: Begin a three-game road swing before Friday’s All-Star break at Indiana.

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