This is it, Cavs Nation.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of a first-round exit as they sit at a 3-1 deficit to the New York Knicks in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. It will be on Cleveland’s eight-to-nine-man rotation to push the Cavs back into contention and move on to face either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Will the Cavs be able to claw their way back and tie things up at three games apiece? And who will be the biggest difference-makers in a now-nearly-impossible run to the second round?
Putting faith into a Mitchell masterclass may be difficult after his 11-point performance at the Garden.
But if a quick glance at the past can teach us anything, it’s that when Mitchell falls in the playoffs, it’s never for too long.
In two playoff series against the Houston Rockets in 2018 and 2019, Mitchell overcame 10-point and 11-point performances, one at home and one on the road, with two games of 24 points or more. His nine points against the Dallas Mavericks in 2022 were followed by a 23-point showing in Utah’s final matchup of the series.
Whether he can consistently keep his playoff form long enough to prove victorious against the Knicks is still a mystery. Still, one can hope he can at least bounce back from Sunday’s game and continue to be a bright spot on a hopeful playoff contender.
Mitchell took accountability for his showing in Game 4, saying he believes in himself and this group during a post-game press conference.
“We believe in each other,” Donovan Mitchell said when asked if he still believes, and if so, why, via Bally Sports Ohio. “If you give up 3-1, you’re not built for these moments.
“At the end of the day, like I said, I had probably the second or third-worst playoff game of my career. I didn’t show up for my guys. Ultimately, everybody did their job. We had our faults as a group, but ultimately I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. I take that. I’ve got to just be better.”
A need to spark the former Cavs Comeback Kings
It’s time the Cavs proved on its biggest stage that they are the kings of the comeback.
The Cavaliers had cemented their 11th comeback when down by double-digits and ninth when trailing by the third quarter with a 113-103 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in January. The team’s fighting mentality, Cavs center Jarrett Allen said, pushed the team to avoid the Cavs’ first home loss since a late-December game against the Brooklyn Nets.
“We’re just fighters until the end of the game,” Allen said. “From 1 to 15, even the coaches. We’re willing to step in and give it all we’ve got until the end.
“It’s just a perfect example.”
Garland, who scored 30 points and made nine of his 22 shot attempts against New Orleans, had the same response when asked where the team’s belief comes from, even as they face a deficit.
“That’s just our mindset, really,” Darius Garland said. “We’ve done it before. We’ve done it 11 times, like (Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor) said. So we know we can do it.
“You know we don’t like putting ourselves it that position. We just know we have a lot of fighters on this team. Like J said, from the coaching staff, to anybody else on that bench, we all know that we can come back from any game. We can be at any game at any time and we can win at any time. That’s what we did tonight.”
Cleveland has shown it can make comebacks when needed the most, as shown by a stunning Cavs victory against the Brooklyn Nets featuring a game-winning 3-point shot from forward Isaac Okoro. If it can do it consistently, it must prove it against a Knicks squad looking to seal their first playoff series win since the 2012-13 season.
Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
Here’s to you, Cavs Nation.
Just over 19,400 fans made their way to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Game 1, flooding Cleveland’s home court with playoff attire during a crucial Cavaliers playoff series. Though it still resulted in a 101-97 loss, the Cavs fought back and earned a 107-90 win over New York in front of a crowd of 19,432.
Let’s hope the Cavaliers can put on a show for the Cleveland crowd on Wednesday. This Cavs season has already been an accomplishment of its own, and in a must-win game, there will be plenty on the line for the Cavs to prove sooner than expected that they can roll with the best of them.
The Cavs will tip off against the Knicks at 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The game will be broadcasted on NBA TV and Bally Sports Ohio.