He made his first All-Star Game this season, and he is a man who can not only score but also get his teammates involved with easy shots.
Garland is the most prominent member of a thus-far successful youth movement in Cleveland that includes rookie big man Evan Mobley, whom many are extremely high on, fellow first-time All-Star Jarrett Allen, and guard Collin Sexton, who has been out for much of this season due to injury.
On Friday, the Cavs will face the Atlanta Hawks, with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and a date with the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs at stake.
If Garland wants to truly prove that he’s one of the league’s newest stars, he needs to deliver a win in that contest.
Garland Has Already Come Up Big
The third-year man is already just beginning to prove that he is someone who can raise his game under pressure.
On Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets, he put up 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 has had this year versus a big opponent.
In a regular season contest against Brooklyn just last week, Garland also had 31 points on almost identical shooting numbers (12-of-24 overall and 3-of-6 from 3-point range).
He also poured in 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field and 4-of-10 from long-range in a February game versus the Hawks.
Darius Garland score 30 points Highlights vs Atlanta Hawks! February 15, 2022 pic.twitter.com/39QJAQvyud
— NBA BASKETBALL (@DejoseMark) February 16, 2022
The key thing is that Cleveland lost all three of those games.
In the NBA, stars and superstars win postseason games, and while a play-in game may not quite be a true postseason game, a tremendous performance by Garland and a win by the Cavs would make a big statement to the rest of the basketball world.
Friday Will Be A Duel
The Cavs’ play-in game versus the Hawks will pit Garland against another young star guard by the name of Trae Young.
Young has already proven that he will put up big numbers when it really matters.
In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last year against the favored Philadelphia 76ers, he posted 39 points in an unexpected 109-106 win in Philly.
After taking 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 an opportunity for Garland to one-up Young, not necessarily by outplaying him individually, but more by having a great game overall and getting a win.
The Cavs’ rising star not only needs to put up points, but he needs to manage the game well as a floor general while also containing Young on the defensive end.
If Cleveland makes it to the playoffs, perhaps it can pressure a Heat team that may be somewhat offensively challenged.