Darius Garland opens up on discomfort in trying to increase point differential during In-Season Tournament games

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up their third In-Season Tournament win of the season against the Atlanta Hawks.

Point guard Darius Garland played well in the win, seeing as how he finished with 19 points, eight assists and two steals while shooting 7-of-15 from the field and 2-of-5 from behind the 3-point line in 38 minutes of playing time.

But Garland recently shared how he felt uncomfortable down the stretch of Cleveland’s matchup against the Hawks.

“It’s kind of different,” Garland said. “It’s not respecting the game as much as I want it to be. I took a shot with like 25 seconds left and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I think the in-season tournament is really great. The point differential is the thing that people around the league would like to change I believe.”

Despite the Cavaliers’ win over the Hawks, they missed out on a wild card spot in the In-Season Tournament. The New York Knicks earned the spot after defeating the Charlotte Hornets by 24 points in an In-Season Tournament game on Tuesday.

The Cavaliers and Knicks own the same In-Season Tournament record at 3-1, but the Knicks earned the wild card spot thanks to their superior point differential. New York had a +42 point differential, while Cleveland had a point differential of +29, meaning the Cavaliers were 14 points away from advancing in the tournament.

While the Cavaliers won’t be winning the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, they have been playing much better basketball of late after getting off to a slow start to the 2023-24 regular season. Cleveland owns a 7-3 record over its last 10 games and is now 10-8 on the season, which is tied with Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat for the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference at the moment.

It’s understandable why Garland felt uncomfortable taking a shot with 25 seconds remaining when the Cavaliers had a big lead over the Hawks. After all, players have been taught to dribble the ball out in those late-game situations as a sign of respect for the opponent.

Garland and the Cavaliers will have a great chance to pick up their third consecutive win on Thursday. They will take on Malcolm Brogdon and the Portland Trail Blazers at home. The Trail Blazers have been one of the worst teams in the NBA so far this season, as they own a poor 5-12 record, which is the third-worst record in the Western Conference ahead of only the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.