Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland Delivers Ominous Message With Dominant NBA Play-in Tournament Performance

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a tall task of trying to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in a one-game playoff on April 12. As expected, the Nets won the NBA Play-In Tournament Game to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, but the Cavs gave them a tough challenge.

After Brooklyn took a 20-point lead in the first quarter, Cleveland rallied and made it a six-point contest with a little over five minutes left. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, though, just proved to be too much and led the Nets to a 115-108 victory.

Despite the loss, Darius Garland had a dominant performance for the Cavs. He also sent an ominous message to the rest of the NBA in the process: Garland is coming.

Darius Garland continued his tremendous season during the NBA Play-In Tournament loss

Cleveland Cavaliers star Darius Garland during the NBA Play-In Tournament against the Brooklyn Nets.
Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers (from left) dribbles against Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets during the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament on April 12, 2022. | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Cavs have been hampered by injuries all season, and it started with Collin Sexton, who led the team in scoring the previous two years but went down with a knee injury in November.

Sexton’s absence was a massive blow to the team, and there have been times where they could have used his scoring abilities. However, not having him in the lineup has also led to Garland having a breakout year.

The Vanderbilt product earned his first All-Star selection this season with 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game. He also shot 46.2% from the field and 38.3% from three-point range.

Garland also continued improving as the year went on. In the final 21 games of the season, he averaged 24.8 points and 10.0 assists.

His dominance then continued in the NBA Play-In Tournament matchup against the Nets.

Despite Brooklyn’s hot start and Garland’s lack of playoff experience, the third-year guard stayed composed and played within himself. He dropped 34 points and five assists on 54.1% shooting. He also made three of his six long-range attempts.

If other NBA teams didn’t know it before, they certainly do now: Garland can become a superstar.

Darius Garland has superstar potential in the NBA

Garland received Stephen Curry comparisons when he entered the league. That may seem like a bit much, and Curry — one of Garland’s biggest fans — is, obviously, a better player at this point. But the Cavs’ fifth overall pick in 2019 has the talent to become a generational star.

He has developed into an excellent three-point shooter and demands attention along the perimeter. However, he has the shiftiness and athleticism to get past defenders and score inside. If the lane is clogged, Garland has elite vision to find his teammates in excellent positions.

Earlier this season, DG became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 25.0 points and 12.0 assists in a 10-game stretch. The only other players to accomplish that at 22 years old were Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, and Chris Paul.

That’s special company.

While Garland has the talent to become a star, though, his maturity is also there. He led this Cavs team all season and proved that no moment is too big for him in the play-in game against the Nets.

There were a lot of takeaways from the Brooklyn-Cleveland matchup. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were incredible. However, Darius Garland showed the entire NBA he is the real deal and that the Cavs can become a dominant force for years to come.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and ESPN

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