Donovan Mitchell Sends Message on Knicks After Crushing Series Loss


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May 29, 2023

Donovan Mitchell Sends Message on Knicks After Crushing Series Loss

Getty Donovan Mitchell of the

Getty Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Exactly 236 days ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the basketball world by pulling off a trade for All-Star Donovan Mitchell. In one fell swoop, Cleveland's rebuild ended and the young team was thrust back into basketball relevance for the first time since LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers four years earlier.

The Mitchell-led Cavaliers were a regular season revelation, winning 51 games, the most since the team fell just short of a Finals victory in 2017. Cleveland was also one of just three teams (along with the Sixers and Bucks) to finish top ten in offense and defense. Mitchell set Cavs records for points scored in a single game, made threes in a single season, and consecutive games scoring 40 or more points.

But against the New York Knicks, Mitchell was rendered impotent. The team's lone All-Star revealed to reporters how it felt with the season coming to a crashing end after a 106-95 loss on Wednesday.

"We did a lot of special things this year but for it to end this way doesn't feel right. I’m proud of every one of those guys in this locker room, the coaching staff, and everybody but they outplayed us. Gotta give credit where credit is due. Simple as that," Mitchell said during his postgame interview.

While Mitchell heaped praise upon his teammates, he also didn't hold back about his own shortcomings in the series.

Before the Cavs traded for Mitchell, the New York native appeared slated for a homecoming with the Knicks, his boyhood team. Thus the Cavs’ first-round matchup with the Knicks was expected to be a referendum on the Knicks’ failure to (once again) attract a marquee talent to the Big Apple.

Turns out, the orange and blue didn't need Mitchell. After averaging 28.3 PPG on .484/.386/.867 shooting splits during the regular season, he managed just 23.2 PPG on .433/.289/.722 in the playoffs.

"I deserve the criticism that comes with that," Mitchell said of his playoff letdown, per Chris Fedor of "Teammates trust me, coaches trust me, everybody trusts me. I wasn't there and I have to own up to that. I have to wear that all summer and I’ll just be better. Take the scrutiny where I deserve it and get better. They did a good job. But I could have done a better job."

No, Mitchell didn't have that one statement, nuclear game against New York. But most of his teammates also failed to show up on a nightly basis.

While Mitchell was certainly lackluster during the series, he was hurt by the predictable offense that Cleveland tends to run. Outside of Mitchell and Darius Garland, there aren't many consistent offensive threats on the roster. Mitchell and Garland both averaged 20+ points on the series, but Cleveland's other three starters averaged just 9.8 points (Evan Mobley), 9.4 points (Jarrett Allen), and 6.4 points (Isaac Okoro) each.

Tom Thibodeau didn't have to be a defensive savant to know that sending two bodies on Garland and Mitchell forces one of those other question marks to make a play on offense. Had Garland and Caris LeVert (15.0 PPG on the series) combined for 56 points in Game Two, there's a real possibility this Cavs team could have been swept.

Ultimately, the Cavs couldn't put the ball in the basket. Cleveland's offensive rating was the worst of any playoff team this year, lagging behind the Brooklyn Nets (swept) and already eliminated Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland scored 100 points or more just once during the five-game series.

But the Knicks didn't bring an offensive juggernaut into the series, either. New York finished the round with the fourth-worst offensive rating. Even still, the games weren't particularly close, with an average differential of 12.2 points. Only Game One was decided by less than five points.

The Cavs now enter the offseason needing to fix that glaring postseason weakness.