�� Cavs' Donovan Mitchell promises to 'be better' in Game 5 vs Magic

Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell promises to ‘be better’ in Game 5 vs Magic

/ 01:08 PM April 30, 2024

Donovan Mitchell Cavaliers vs Magic NBA playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell is fouled by Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) as he tries to drive past him during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Donovan Mitchell paused while answering a question to adjust the wireless microphone pinned to the front of his wine-colored practice jersey. The All-Star guard wanted to make sure everyone could hear.

He joked his mom wants him to speak louder.

Mitchell needs to raise his volume — and his game. He’s been too quiet lately.

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As the Cavaliers prepared for a Game 5 on Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic that could be pivotal in ways beyond the outcome of this best-of-seven series, Mitchell made it clear he knows he’s got to do more.

“It starts with me,” he said.

While the series has been even, it’s been anything but that for Mitchell.

READ: NBA: Donovan Mitchell powers Cavaliers to 2-0 lead over Magic

He scored 30 and 23 points, respectively, in Games 1 and 2 as the Cavaliers opened a 2-0 lead with home wins. But in Orlando, Mitchell wasn’t the same and neither were the Cavaliers, who appeared lost in Central Florida.

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Mitchell scored just 13 points in Game 3, when the Cavaliers were beaten 121-83 — the worst playoff loss in their history. He started well in Game 4, scoring 18 while controlling the tempo in the first half as Cleveland opened a nine-point lead.

He had a determined look. At halftime, it disappeared.

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Mitchell, who has been slowed by a bothersome left knee, went scoreless while attempting just four shots in the second half and the Cavaliers were outscored 37-10 in the third quarter as the Magic rolled to a 112-89 win.

After two days to analyze what went wrong, Mitchell said the solution is simple.

“I just can’t take four shots in that half,” he said. “I told you after Game 1, this is who I am. Fourteen shots and 16 shots in consecutive games — right, wrong or indifferent — speaks to the level of aggression. And I wasn’t that.

“So I hold myself accountable for that, and I’ll be better.”

READ: NBA: Magic post second straight rout of Cavaliers to tie series

Since Game 1, Mitchell is averaging 18 points on 20-of-52 shooting (38%), including an uncharacteristic 4 of 20 on 3s. He’s got 20 assists, has made 15 turnovers and is being hounded by Orlando guard Jalen Suggs.

Mitchell has dismissed any notion that his knee is an issue. But he’s clearly not himself.

Aside from the opener, he hasn’t had his typical acceleration. That signature crossover, step-back 3-pointer — a move he springs to get separation in big moments — has been missing and it appears he’s trying preserve himself.

“I’m good,” he said when asked about his health.

But is he 100 percent?

“I’m good,” he said.

The Cavaliers may need better than that from Mitchell to advance, and it’s not a given that he can rise to that level.

Mitchell played in 11 of 29 games after the All-Star break — he also had surgery on a broken nose — due to the knee, which he aggravated stepping on Magic forward Paolo Banchero’s foot early in Game 3.

There’s no time for rest or overreaction, which is why Mitchell was exuding calm.

“The biggest thing is just continuing to stay level-headed throughout the process,” he said. “The past two games have been not what we wanted, but we have a chance to take care of business at home and that’s pretty much the only mindset.”

For now.

Some time soon, the conversation around Mitchell will shift from the next game to the next season and beyond. He’s eligible to sign a contract extension with Cleveland this summer, and his future could be tied to how the Cavaliers, who flamed out in the first round a year ago, finish this spring.

That’s for another day, and why Mitchell said it was imperative for the Cavs to turn the page.

What happened in Orlando, stays in Orlando.

“Give them credit. Give us credit,” he said. “We did what we were supposed to do. So now it’s can we do it again? We will. That’s where we’re at. Otherwise, we’re going home, and we don’t want that to happen.

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“Handle business on Tuesday, and everything else will go from there.”

TAGS: Donovan Mitchell, NBA

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