When the Cleveland Cavaliers fizzled out last season against the New York Knicks, their overall toughness was constantly questioned. It only worsened when the series ended when big man Jarrett Allen became a staple meme for NBA Twitter, saying, “The lights were brighter than expected.”

Cleveland's inability to handle pressure in the playoffs put the Cavs under a microscope. And since their season ended sooner than expected, the discourse became untenable. Allen shared at one point he had to walk away from social media entirely to block out the noise. The speculation on Cleveland's supposed toughness became a toxic cesspool and, when Allen was sidelined for the start of the season, it only became more difficult.

Cavs' bigs shine bright vs. Warriors

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers


Well, after a strong win over the Golden State Warriors that ended a 17-game losing skid, Allen, Mobley and the Cavs might've silenced their doubters. Like the Knicks, the Warriors are a very physical team, spearheaded by Draymond Green and Kevon Looney.

Last year, there's a good chance Cleveland's front line would've crumbled the moment things became too physical. But, this year, it appears the Cavs' biggest haters were, in fact, their biggest motivators. Allen, Mobley and the rest of Cleveland's bigs handled the physicality Golden State threw at them and, more importantly, imposed their will on the Warriors.

“I think both of those guys did a phenomenal job of making the extra effort and doing one more,” said J.B. Bickerstaff postgame. “… They fought to go and get them and they knew we needed it. Our defense starts with our bigs and ends with our bigs. We know we have both of those guys back there, protecting the paint, protecting their teammates.”

Overall, the Cavs outrebounded the Warriors 54-44 in this game, with Allen and Mobley combining for 46.3 percent of Cleveland's total rebounds. More impressively, Allen and Mobley gave the Cavs 10 second-chance opportunities, which led to 18 points for Cleveland. While Allen and Mobley might not have been the driving force behind the Cavs on offense, they helped generate offensive opportunities through their physicality and, more importantly, imposed their will on defense to keep the Warriors from climbing back into the game.

“I gave him a big hug when we were in Indiana,” said Donovan Mitchell about Allen postgame. “He's that guy that's willing to do a lot of things that don't always show up. It's just his presence and just being there. He deters shots. He's finding rebounds. He's making plays in the pocket – he had a beautiful left handed pass to Max [Strus] for three on the wing. It's things like that, being able to be a presence down there.

“It helps Evan and helps Evan's game grow. It gives Evan a break from having to play the five all the time and allows him to be more forceful. Like I've said, JA is one of the most underrated bigs in the league and it's not talked about enough. He does a lot for us and you see it. You see it when he comes back and is part of who we are and what we can be defensively.”

Sure, it was only the second game Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have played together this 2023-24 season, but the embarrassing exit from last campaign may have changed them for the better. The Cavs have always been a team that stresses playing with a sense of physicality and toughness, and against a team like the Warriors, they enforced it.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder next on the schedule for Cleveland, it'll be another opportunity for Allen and Mobley to enforce their will on another physical team. Based on how they looked against Golden State and the Indiana Pacers the game before, things are trending upward for the Cavs' star-studded frontcourt.