Cavaliers fans must have felt betrayed, as Donovan Mitchell was not there when needed.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Donovan Mitchell deserves better.

The Cavs struggled against the Knicks in New York in their fourth-quarter loss, this thought kept running through the mind of fans: The Cavs trail the best-of-seven first round playoff series 3-1 and are in deep trouble.

Donovan Mitchell wasn’t solely to blame for Cleveland’s loss in this game, but he could have helped them win it. Indeed, in many ways the game was set up so he could serve as a big-time Cleveland closer. They made such deals for Mitchell precisely so he can perform in situations such as this – pressure cooker playoff games against an aggressive defense away from home.

Donovan Mitchell seemed confused when confronted by double teams from the Knicks, taking several open shots that hit off the rim without success. By the middle of the fourth quarter, his body language alternated between frustrated and defeated. Mitchell shot only 1 for 9 from the field in the second half, including 1 of 4 during the final period, for 11 ugly points. He had more turnovers than assists or rebounds while struggling on defense.


Fans were left confused as they watched this unfold and wondered where Donovan Mitchell had gone after beginning the All-Star Game or averaging 28 points over 39 career playoff games leading up to 2023?

Mitchell failed when his efforts were needed most. He is an upstate New York native, playing at Madison Square Garden holds great significance for him, and he had hoped to be traded to the Knicks last summer.

Maybe Mitchell felt too strongly about the game he played. In two losses at New York, Mitchell committed 12 turnovers and did not seem comfortable playing at that level.

Mitchell is back for his sixth postseason appearance – all five were in Utah where the Jazz often had stellar regular season records. Three times they were eliminated in the opening round and lost again in both subsequent playoff appearances – once more in both cases in the second round.

Utah decided to break up their team, trading away Rudy Gobert and Mitchell as part of its offseason restructuring plan.


Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen struggled mightily in the first half for Cleveland, falling behind by 15 points at one point before cutting it to 9 by halftime and then taking an unexpected 71-70 lead with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Garland and Allen led the Cavs’ third-quarter comeback. Mitchell initially began the fourth quarter on the bench before entering at 8:56, when Cleveland trailed 80-75 with possession of the ball.

Now was Mitchell’s chance. Garland was scoring, so the Knicks defense needed to pay attention to Mitchell as Garland scored. Mitchell has long been known as one of the Cavaliers I’ve seen for driving to the basket, being hit, scoring or drawing fouls – yet only made 1 of 2 free throw attempts, failing to press meaningful drives towards the basket.

He appeared uncertain that his shots would make an impactful statement about himself or what they wanted to achieve with their ball. Perhaps coach J.B. Bickerstaff could have run some plays to create better shots for Mitchell.

Mitchell typically is known for being a shot creator – the person who ends up holding onto the ball as time ticks down and heartbeats speed up – but not on this day.

Garland scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 total. He recorded 10 assists without making an error–while Allen netted 14 points.

However, Cleveland was decimated on the boards by an overwhelming margin – 47-33. Ray Allen managed only four rebounds, with Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley being their leading rebounders.

Mitchell may not be solely to blame, but his performance on an NBA stage should not be overlooked.

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