The Cleveland Cavaliers needed a spark against the Miami Heat on Friday, staring down the barrel of a 16-point deficit early in the second quarter.

The starting unit looked shaky and All-Star guard Darius Garland had racked up four quick, questionable fouls. It forced the Cavs to lean on Craig Porter Jr., someone who has earned the trust of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff despite being a rookie. Porter never seemed phased by the moment's significance and, to the surprise of no one, shouldered the responsibilities Garland typically carries on the floor.

While Porter was great, he wasn't the catalyst that helped Cleveland roar back into the game and eventually defeat Miami 111-99. Instead, those honors go to backup forward Georges Niang, the loud, brash and now vital member of the Cavs on a nightly basis. Niang was Cleveland's leading bench scorer, finishing the night with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting along with three rebounds and two assists.

Georges Niang making his imprint on Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Max Strus, Georges Niang

For Niang and the Cavs, this is what everyone expected from him as a key reserve, replacing the production shooting-wise that Kevin Love gave Cleveland at times last season. It took a bit for him to get there and Niang had a slow start to 2023-24. His shot wasn't falling and he was getting shredded by opponents on defense. But it was an expected part of the acclimation process as the free agency acquisition tried to find his place on a team with strong roster continuity from top to bottom.

Niang went scoreless in his Cavs debut and scored double-figures just three times in his first 11 games. Bricked, wide-open jumpers and three-pointers led to outside noise and questions about whether he was worth the three-year, $25.5 million contract Cleveland gave him over the summer.

But internally, Niang had the faith and support of his teammates who knew it would take time for him to adjust to a new situation. Considering that his 13 points against the Heat is the eighth time in 10 games Niang has scored in double-digits, the wait was worth it for Cleveland. Now, he has become a vital steadying force for the Cavs' second unit, averaging 8.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists while connecting on 36.7% of his three-point attempts per game.

“First 10 games, I was running around, looking around, but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable knowing my role, what’s expected of me, what I can do, where my spots are gonna be and what I have to do every single day,” Niang said before Cleveland took the road. “I feel extremely comfortable, but when we get our full lineup here, sometimes you have to sacrifice, sometimes you’re expected to do more, sometimes you have to do less. Sometimes you kinda got to get in where you fit in.”

Niang gives the Cavs a new wrinkle off the bench as an offensive specialist and, now, a consistent shooting threat. He was Cleveland's most impactful reserve in the win over Miami, especially with sixth man Caris LeVert sidelined by a knee injury. The bold and brash forward has become a vital piece for the Cavs both on and off the court and is shaping up to be the glue guy who brings everyone together and helps the team thrive in a very strong Eastern Conference.