The Cleveland Cavaliers are fighting for playoff seeding as the 2023-24 regular season campaign draws to a close, and they have an important contest against the Los Angeles Clippers coming up on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, they won’t have star guard Donovan Mitchell available for the contest, as he’s been ruled out for this game.

Mitchell has been dealing with a bevy of injuries since the All-Star break, and it’s resulted in him playing just nine games since then. While he has played in four of Cleveland’s past five games, he won’t be taking the floor against the Clippers, as the Cavs have opted to rule him out with knee injury management for this one.

Via Chris Fedor:

“No Donovan Mitchell for Cavs today against the Clippers on the second day of a back to back and final game of this road trip. He is OUT for injury management related to his knee. Also, Isaac Okoro is QUESTIONABLE.”

Cavs prioritizing Donovan Mitchell’s health for playoffs

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Arena.

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While Mitchell is generally having a strong season for the Cavs (26.4 PPG, 6 APG, 5.1 RPG, 46.1 FG%), it’s been a struggle for himself, and the team as a whole, since the All-Star break. Again, Mitchell has only played in nine games since the break, and he hasn’t been particularly good in those games (16.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.8 RPG, 37.8 FG%).

It’d be one thing if this was some sort of midseason slump, but the Cavs only have four games until the playoffs get underway. This should be the time they are playing their best basketball, but instead, they are struggling just to make it to the finish line, which doesn’t exactly bode well with a difficult playoff series on the horizon.

With a 46-32 record heading into Sunday’s action, Cleveland currently finds themselves in the third seed with the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would meet with the Indiana Pacers in the first-round of the playoffs. The problem is that the Cavs are just a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks, meaning that they could conceivably fall down a pair of spots by the time the season ends.

Even worse, the Pacers could get bumped to the Play-In Tournament, as the Miami Heat are just a half-game behind them, and the Philadelphia 76ers are a half-game behind the Heat in eighth place. There is a lot of playoff drama that will get sorted out in the coming days, but it’s not as if Cleveland can take their foot off the gas and coast into the playoffs.

Of course, Mitchell needs to be healthy in order for this team to make a deep run, so there’s no sense in forcing him to play if he’s not good to go with the playoffs right around the corner. But if Cleveland loses this game, they are at risk from dropping to the five seed in the East depending on how the Magic and Knicks fare in their respective contests on Sunday.

The good news is that Isaac Okoro could play in this game, although nobody is going to say that he is as important to Cleveland’s success as Mitchell is. Either way, Cleveland is doing whatever they can to stay afloat with the postseason just a few games away, but they are going to have a tough task in beating the Clippers without Mitchell on the floor for them.