Cavs Can Turn to Game 2 to Force Game 6


All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell looks to be out once again as the Cleveland Cavaliers face a 3-1 deficit as the series heads back to Boston Wednesday night.

The 27-year-old led the Cavs to their only win of the series thus far in Game 2 against the top-seeded Celtics. Mitchell dominated the contest with 29 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and even had a shrug moment after banking in a three in the fourth quarter.

Despite the hopeful surge heading back to Cleveland, Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown combined for 121 points in Games 3 and 4. The two star wings have proved to be too much for a banged up Cleveland squad.

Even down two starters, however, the Cavs showed their heart in Game 4. The fanbase largely seemed to write the team off once the Mitchell announcement was made. But with three minutes left in Game 4, the Cavs found themselves with just a five-point deficit.

The Cavs will be forced to ride the back of Darius Garland once again. His 30 points and seven assists in Game 4 is encouraging and crucial to the success of a shorthanded Cleveland team. The Cavs are not strangers to players missing time. They will need to continue their next-man-up mentality.

While things may look bleak, the Cavs don’t have to look too far in the past to force a Game 6.

Cavs’ Game 2 Success Can Be Replicated Without Mitchell

Let’s go back to last Thursday, where the Cavs thumped the Celtics 118-94 to even the series at one game a piece. Mitchell’s 29 sure helped the Cavs, but there were plenty of other aspects that created Cleveland’s success.

A few minutes into the game, Garland gets a screen from Isaac Okoro and sees Al Horford in drop coverage with Derrick White working to recover onto him. Garland proceeds to pull back and kick it out to Okoro who drains an early three. The Cavs picked apart the drop throughout the game.

With former all-star big Jarrett Allen missing his fifth consecutive game, we see Evan Mobley at the center position. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff tasks him with acting as a roamer to disrupt the Celtics’ offense. Mobley records a steal early that immediately results in a fast-break score for Okoro.

Mobley, known for his defensive prowess, exhibited offense that Cavs fans were delighted to see. He secures playoff career highs with 21 points on 15 attempts to go along with five assists.

Coming out of USC, Evan was touted as a unicorn. Plays like this showcase why he earned that description.

Second-quarter notes

The Cavs entered the second quarter with a 30-24 lead. Mobley subbed out for his first rest and in that five-minute span, Cleveland was outscored 18-7. Without the rim protection, the Celtics repeatedly scored in the paint and then started to hit a few threes.

Cleveland struggled to get into a rhythm for most of the second, shooting 9-for-20 while committing four turnovers. The Celtics executed well on defense, staying tight and not allowing as many easy looks as the first quarter.

Payton Pritchard in particular got it rolling during this time, shooting 3-for-4 with three assists and a steal.

After tightening up the defense, however, the Cavs go on an 11-3 run in the final four minutes of the half.

Third-quarter shooting

Boston opens up the second half with a Horford corner three miss, afterwards, Mitchell started his downpour with this wild shot.

These opening possessions sum up how the rest of the third act plays out. The Celtics end up going 0-for-8 from deep while Cleveland shoots a blazing 7-for-10.

Garland then chips in with a pull-up three on the Cavs next offensive possession. Fast forward a few minutes later and the 24-year-old swishes another three after seeing drop coverage again. Following yet another pull-up deep ball, Garland goes 3-for-3 from three in the quarter and earns a rest.

Boston just couldn’t string together enough offense to withstand the Cleveland onslaught. Resulting in a 36-24 quarter capped off with another ludicrous Mitchell three.

Fourth-quarter dominance

The closing act starts with a 12-point Cleveland lead and Boston never cuts it down for the rest of the game.

Cleveland had a clear focus in this game— limit the amount of open threes Boston gets. The Celtics are a heavy three-point shooting team and in fact, are the leader during the playoffs in attempted threes per game.

This next clip is evidence of Mobley’s excellence on defense and why J.B. trusts him so much. First he communicates with Max Strus on an off-ball screen so he can keep himself on the strong side. Then he deters Derrick White from the paint and when the ball swings to the corner man, he flies out to contest and force the miss.

Effort and execution like that played a large role in slowing down the regular season’s best offense in this Game 2.

The Celtics are 14.5-point favorites in Game 5. The underdog Cavs have their work cut out for them as they head back into TD Garden. The Cavaliers were 12-15 without Donovan Mitchell in the regular season— so they can find a way to win.

If they wish to continue fighting, they will need contributions up and down the roster as they look to knock off a talented Celtics group.

About Mike Kline

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