Donovan Mitchell Powers Cleveland Past Los Angeles
Donovan Mitchell has seemingly been the missing link for the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far this season. While all the talk has been about the Milwaukee Bucks and their undefeated start, the Cavaliers have snuck in under the radar. They are currently ranked second in the Eastern Conference with a win-loss record of 8-1 after their most recent win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Cavaliers came close to making the postseason last year. It was looking like they were locks until an unfortunate slew of injuries struck their key players down the stretch of the back-end of the regular season. As a result, they were a contestant in the play-in tournament where they ultimately fell short. However, everyone saw the potential this young Cleveland squad possessed.
Before Donovan Mitchell in a Cavs jersey was even a thought, Cleveland already boasted the likes of Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and the athletic, quick, and elusive Darius Garland. Last season saw both Garland and Allen make their first All-Star appearance of their career. Meanwhile, Mobley was in a race with Toronto’s Scotti Barnes. A race which eventually led to Barnes winning the Rookie of the Year. Despite this, Evan Mobley solidified himself as one of the premier rim protectors (an average of 1.7 blocks per game) in the league and it also netted him a place on last season’s All-Rookie Team.
Many were projecting this Cavs team to easily make the playoffs this year. Especially with this young trio gaining more experience and having a little more luck on the injury front. However, the organization made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason bringing some massive reinforcements. Reinforcements in the form of three-time All-Star, Donovan Mitchell. If there were any concerns of this young squad sneaking into the playoffs before, they were alleviated with the Mitchell trade. The Cavaliers had found their leader and first go-to star since LeBron James.
Donovan Mitchell has already paid dividends for the Cavaliers. We alluded to Cleveland’s impressive start to the season earlier. While the season is still young, he is already tallying 31.1 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game. Not to mention, he is bringing out the best in his teammates early on as well. Darius Garland is picking up where he left off last year. So far, he has totals of 16.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Not to mention, the frontcourt of Mobley and Allen have been doing well. They have led Cleveland to a sixth place ranking in team defensive rebounding to this point.
Against the Lakers, the Cavaliers had their skill-set on full display. Mitchell finished with 33 points to go along with five rebounds. His backcourt mate, Darius Garland, also had a great outing as he came away with 24 points and seven assists. Cleveland’s defense came alive in the second half which propelled them to their first lead in the third quarter. After that, it was downhill for the Lakers and uphill for the Cavaliers.
Only one player on Los Angeles finished with a positive player differential rating (Max Christie). Despite Los Angeles boasting one of the better defensive teams in the league, they simply could not contain Mitchell and Garland, especially in the second half. After all, the Lakers are currently ninth in the league in team steals per game. With this in mind, this win for the Cavs is impressive in many fashions and the NBA better watch out for Cleveland.
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