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

Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland (10) drives against San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) (Ron Schwane, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CLEVELAND – Darius Garland didn't show any rust. He shined just 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 last home game before hosting the All-Star Game.

Garland, who missed the past four games with a sore lower back, showed why he was voted an 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 felt great being with the guys, and having our new piece, LeVert, out there with us,” Garland said.

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

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

“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 roles well and they know their team.”

It was just one game, but Cleveland appears to be a more complete team with LeVert. Garland said his arrival has given the NBA's most surprising team an emotional lift, and confidence it can make this season even better.

“They have belief in us that we can go do something special," Garland said of Cleveland's front office. “As long as we have that same belief in the locker 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 on Sunday from the Indiana Pacers 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 pass to the corner for Isaac Okoro’s 3-pointer.

The 27-year LeVert is a proven scorer capable of creating his own shot. He gives Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff another offensive weapon, a lengthy defender and some potential new lineups.

“When he gets comfortable, I think it's going to be really scary," Garland said of his newest teammate. “He's getting to his spots, making easy reads and getting people open.”

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

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

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

TIP-INS

Spurs: Coach Gregg Popovich was impressed this summer by Garland, who was in training camp with the U.S. Olympic team. “He stepped right in and did everything we expected him to do,” 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 blemishes were six turnovers. ... Won their seventh straight at home. ... Garland, Mobley, Okoro and Allen were presented with commemorative All-Star Game balls before the game. The quartet will all take part in next weekend's festivities. ... F Lauri Markkanen (ankle) missed his eighth straight game.

POP HONORED

Rarely lost for words, Popovich wasn’t sure how to react to being voted one of the NBA’s 15 greatest coaches.

“It’s a little bit embarrassing,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling. It humbles you to the knees.”

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

A five-time champion and three-time Coach of the Year, Popovich, who is six wins from passing Don Nelson for first on the career list, is a no-brainer.

“It’s sort of bizarre,” he said. “It’s not something where you grew up in the game and said, ‘Someday, I’m going to do this.’ I’ve been blessed with lots of great players and coaches, staff and I’ve been doing it a long time, so someone felt it appropriate to put me on that list.

“It’s certainly an honor to be in that group of people, but still sort of an out-of-body experience.”

SPURS SWAP

San Antonio was part of a three-team trade with Portland and Utah ahead of 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 received Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Blazers and Juancho Hernangomez from the Spurs.

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

“Just from playing against him, I know he plays hard. He's smart, gets after it,” White said of Satoransky. “We'll just welcome him, get to know him and hopefully he'll help us wins some games.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: Visit Atlanta on Friday.

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

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