A collective effort helped lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to being crowned champions of this year’s NBA Summer League in Las Vegas after defeating the Houston Rockets by 21 points.
Cleveland ousted Houston, 99-78, Monday, July 17 from the Thomas & Mack Center in the title game of the nearly two-week summer session. Coming into the final two days of play, both the Cavs and Rockets were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in Las Vegas this summer.
Jason of Beverly Hills was responsible for designing this year’s championship rings as he did last year for the first time in summer league history.
“It felt wonderful,” forward Isaiah Mobley said. “A jeweler from LA makes it all the more better to be able to put that on my finger and add that to the resume as a summer league champion.”
Starting out the gate fast, Cleveland built a 14-point lead over Houston in the game’s opening quarter. Early in the second quarter, the team would build an advantage of 18 points.
A big factor for the Cavs’ ability to build such a large lead came from the tough defense the team played the Rockets’ late first round pick, Cam Whitmore. Earlier during the day on Monday, Whitmore was named this year’s Summer League Most Valuable Player.
“He was the MVP so I know he was probably confident coming into this game,” Mobley said. “[Forward Luke Travers] held him and that made a huge difference and allowed us to get a lead.”
One night after being held scoreless until about midway through the second quarter, Whitmore was held without a made field goal on his first six attempts of the game. His first made field goal of the game came at the 6:26-mark of the second quarter.
By the final buzzer, Whitmore would finish with 14 points on 6-of-17 from the field including a 2-for-8 mark from three-point range.
Even with Whitmore struggling, Houston made a run late in the second quarter that nearly saw the team battle all the way back to tie the game. Cleveland took a timeout with 3:34 to go before halftime, leading by just three points on the heels of a 22-7 run by its opponent.
Whenever the going got tough for the Cavs, they turned to Mobley oftentimes. He racked up 18 first half points after exploding for 11 points in the first quarter.
Mobley would finish with a game-high 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds which was also a game-high. As a result, he was recognized as the game’s MVP.
Earlier in the day, Mobley was left off both the All-Summer teams while teammates Sam Merrill and Emoni Bates were acknowledged as members of the 10-person teams.
“I try to not worry about stuff I can’t control,” Mobley said. “Do I agree with it? No. But it is what it is, like I said I’ll take a championship over that all day.”
Mobley’s dominance helped Cleveland win the points in the paint battle, 52-30, which he punctuated with a fourth quarter alley-oop flush.
Merrill added 27 points on 57% from the floor with six made threes on the way to another championship-clinching game inside the T&M Center. A product of Utah State, Merrill has now won three championships inside those hallowed halls.
“That’s the third ring [I’ve] won here,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun, it’s probably the arena I’ve played in most aside from home arenas. It’s nice knowing the locker room and feeling comfortable and having a lot of success so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Bates added 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting coupled with five rebounds and four assists in his first summer league of his young career.
“It felt really good,” he said. “Just going in there with the mindset of we’ve been prepared all week. Just coming in, [we] paid attention to the [scouting report], paid attention to the details of the game which was big for us.”