With a 121-108 win against the New York Knicks on Sunday, the Cleveland Cavaliers remain undefeated since their season opening loss to the Toronto Raptors and are 5-1 on the season.
The Cavs were outscored 34-22 in the third quarter and went into the fourth trailing by nine. In the third, they got easy bucket after easy bucket against the Cavs. The Knicks played with more pace, more energy and more precision than the Cavs. It felt like the momentum had shifted in favor of the Knicks.
Cleveland, though, came out firing in the fourth quarter, outscoring New York 37-15 to seal the win. Kevin Love had 16 points in the quarter (15 on three-pointers), while Donovan Mitchell added 12 points and 4 assists as part of a 38-point, 12-assist night.
In the win, the Cavs took a season-high 50 three-pointers, making 23 of them. Coming into the game, their previous season-high was 35 on Friday against the Boston Celtics. Last season, they Cavs only surpassed 50 three-pointers once.
Mitchell led Cleveland from deep, going 8-13 from distance. Love finished 8-13, while Dean Wade made 6-8 threes as part of a 22-point night. Combined, those three made a combined 22 of the Cavs’ 23 three-points. Cedi Osman made the one other three for the Cavs and was 1-6 overall.
Three-point shooting is not the Cavs’ defining offensive goal. They are just a hair above average for the year in three-point rate. It’s not J.B. Bickerstaff’s preference either — he prefers a more balanced attack. And the third quarter went off the rails in part because the Cavs couldn’t get any looks in the paint. In the third, 15 of Cleveland’s 25 shots were three-pointers. They only made three.
But they have this gear to turn to if they need it or the game flows that way. Mitchell is a willing and able bomber. Love, of course, remains that and will likely be a marksman for as long as he’s in the NBA. Wade is a bit more streaky, but is capable. Ditto for Osman, who had been hot until an off night Sunday. Throw Darius Garland back into his mix and there’s enough shooting there to be dangerous.
Signs of life for Isaac Okoro
Okoro still laid an egg on offense. In 21 minutes, he was 0-3 from the field and 0-2 from three with 2 assists and 2 points. Concerns about his offensive fit and ability to be a real rotation piece for a team with aspirations are still there.
But this was definitely his best game, particularly in the second half. He started the fourth quarter and was on the floor for the Cavs’ run in that quarter. Okoro largely took minutes that would have went to Osman or Caris LeVert, two better offensive players who had issues defensively against the Knicks in defending Jalen Brunson on the perimeter. Osman, in particular, had issues staying in front of Brunson all night and wasn’t making enough shots to outweigh the defensive issues. Okoro came in and largely held Brunson in check.
In the third, Brunson had 12 of his 16 points on 6-8 shooting, plus two assists. In the fourth, he was 1-4 from the field for 2 points, plus one assist.
Okoro did have a few small offensive flashes too. Most notably, he threw a pinpoint pass to Evan Mobley after he nicely cut in behind the defense. Mobley scored easily. And, for that moment at least, Okoro was additive.
Donovan Mitchell, again spectacular
Mitchell, once again, was a superstar. With Garland still out, he again led the Cavs’ offense to a 121-point night with an offensive rating of 119.4. The league average this year, per Cleaning The Glass, is 113.1.
Every single night out, Mitchell does something spectacular, something that makes Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse go bananas and chant ‘MVP, MVP, MVP’ about him six games into his Cavs tenure. On Sunday, it was this dunk more than anything else, but also five or six other plays. He was that good.
.@spidadmitchell spins and takes flight! ✈️#LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/meVUNbJz5S— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) October 31, 2022
Yes, trading all of those picks came with risk. Losing players like Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen and the potential of Ochai Agbaji isn’t nothing. But Mitchell is worth all of it. He’s the real deal. He’s been so good he’s scoring at a level for his new team only player in NBA history has ever done:
Donovan Mitchell becomes just the second player in NBA history to record 5 30-point games in his first 6 games with a team.— Cayleigh Griffin (@cayleighgriffin) October 31, 2022
Wilt Chamberlin did it in 1959 with the Warriors, in all 6 games.
This is special stuff.