You might not know it by studying the final scoreline, but it was a shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers team that blew out the Orlando Magic 118-94 on Thursday night. Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley were given the night off, giving the second-unit and rotation players a chance to shine.
And by and large, those players understood the assignment. A bevy of strong individual performances from Danny Green, Isaiah Mobley, and Cedi Osman boosted the Cavs to victory.
Although he didn’t put out the flashiest final stat line — seven points, six rebounds — Dean Wade earned praise from head coach JB Bickerstaff after the game.
“He commits to the work,” Bickerstaff said of Wade, per The Athletic. “And we made a commitment to Dean this summer that he was going to be a part of what we were doing, and we believe in him and believe in that. We know when he’s at his best, how impactful he can be.
“In order to get there, you got to have a chance, you got to give a guy a chance. These are some of these decisions, leap of faiths and guys who you trust that have banked some credit with you like Dean has and we know how impactful he has been for us.”
Wade stepped into the starting five on Thursday night, but he’s been seeing more playing time lately as a result of a knee injury to Isaac Okoro.
JB Bickerstaff Sounds Off on Isaac Okoro Injury
Okoro has missed the last five games with knee soreness that he suffered against the Houston Rockets on March 26.
Accoridng to Bickerstaff, Okoro has been frustrated about missing time.
“There is frustration and for all the right reasons,” Bickerstaff said. “You know Isaac and where his intent is and where his heart is, like all he wants to do is be on the floor, competing with his teammates. And he takes pride in his ability to be available. So it is frustrating for him. He keeps a pretty even spirit all the time. So he knows how to engage his teammates, keep it light, still show his support, but you know on the inside, it’s eating him up.”
Since Okoro went down, the Cavaliers have gone 4-2, managing a high level of play despite the starter missing.
JB Bickerstaff Praises Cavaliers’ Rotation
As noted, Okoro’s injury has opened up opportunities for others in the lineup to get some run before the playoffs.
“It’s an opportunity to give those guys reps,” Bickerstaff said, per cleveland.com. “There’s a purpose behind these guys getting the minutes that they’re getting, expecting them to get reps and opportunities at their roles that will be helpful to us as we close out the season and move into the playoffs.”
While it’s unlikely to see the likes of Isaiah Mobley during crunch time of a playoff series, it does give Bickerstaff an opportunity to rest the starters who will be needed shortly. And with backup big still being a spot of concern for Cleveland, Mobley’s strong play could hint at his ability for more of a role next season.