HomeBasketball TodayCavs' Georges Niang: The Unstoppable Force Fueling the Team's Explosive Winning Streak

Cavs’ Georges Niang: The Unstoppable Force Fueling the Team’s Explosive Winning Streak

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The Cavaliers have found a special leader in Georges Niang.

Whenever you’re around the Cleveland Cavaliers, you can quickly tell that Georges Niang is the loudest guy in the room. The more you get to know him, the more you learn that Niang is also unapologetically himself and doesn’t mince words. For example, after going 13-of-14 from the field in Cleveland’s 135-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in January, including 5-of-6 from three-point range, Niang was brutally honest when he learned he’s been shooting 32.1% from three-point range over the Cavs’ last 13 games.

“Oh, so you’re telling me I stink,” Niang sarcastically quipped after Cleveland defeated the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. “But it’s a fact. I mean, I haven’t been making three-pointers, so I’ve got to find other ways to be effective.

“I’m not going to sit here and be offended. That’s not how it is. And I know that moving forward, I’m going to have to take and make shots, especially in the playoffs. And I’m eager and excited to show you that or show everybody that.”

Niang making himself the butt of the joke, aware of his issues on the court, is just one instance in which he’s proven to be one of the leaders for a young, up-and-coming Cavs squad. But the brashness of his delivery in acknowledging this cold streak is another lens into what kind of player Niang can be on the court, even when his shot isn’t falling. It gives Niang true grit, and his “don’t take crap from anybody” attitude gave Cleveland a spark in a nail-biter against Chicago.

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Niang’s fiery leadership

Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Georges Niang (20) have words as referee Michael Smith (38) tries to get between them during the second half at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Early into the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, Niang and Bulls guard Coby White exchanged shoves and heated words while tallying double-technical fouls. As Niang guarded him, White appeared to throw his head back in an attempt to sell a foul. White then passed the ball, pushed Niang’s left arm down, and received a shove in return. Aside from the double technicals, Niang picked up his fourth personal foul during the official review of the play.

Later, Niang fouled out of the game completely with just four minutes and 39 seconds remaining on the game clock. He checked out with a total of 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 1-of-5 on his attempts from beyond the arc. But what Niang had done in that limited stretch, standing up against a Bulls team that was very physical with the Cavs all night, was a system shock that allowed Cleveland to scratch and claw their way to victory.

“I love it,” All-Star Donovan Mitchell said when asked about the Niang-White altercation. “The sense of fire — that’s the biggest thing as a team, just having that. We’re not going to go out there and fight. This isn’t WWE. This isn’t UFC. So just being able to set that tone, I think, was huge.”

Cavaliers swingman Isaac Okoro called Niang an enforcer for his actions in the game against Chicago. While Niang knew it was probably said in jest, he took the compliment from Okoro in stride.

“Coming from Isaac, I’m sure that was a little sarcastic, but I appreciate that coming from him,” Niang stated. “But, no. I play with a lot of tenacity. I play with a lot of intensity, and that’s just who I am. I don’t back down from anybody, and I hope that rubs off on all our guys because I think we have a great team.

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“We have a chance to do something special.”

Niang finds himself as part of a tonal shift, one that gives the Cavs the grit they lacked for most of last season. Although one of the league leaders in technical fouls, Max Strus has aided in establishing this new foundation since being acquired in a sign-and-trade from the Miami Heat this past offseason. Veteran big man Tristan Thompson, who is suspended until March for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, also brings a level of grit to this team given his multiple postseason appearances and scuffles through the years.

Clearly, Cleveland isn’t afraid to get physical and to continue talking trash while their foot is on their opponent’s throats.

Can it be annoying? Sure. But if an opponent starts feeding into it, the Cavs know they’ve already won since they’ve broken the opposition from a mental standpoint.

Niang, being as bold and brash as he is, has helped enforce this new mentality. Given all the dynamic play from elsewhere on the roster, this is a recipe that allows the Cavs to keep scrapping and clawing until they prove to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

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