With a 116-102 win on Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers have finished the year 2-0 against LeBron James Lakers. Donovan Mitchell led the way for the Cavs, scoring a game-high 43 points to pace Cleveland. Fifteen of Mitchell’s points came in the fourth quarter when the Cavs pulled away for good.
Donovan Mitchell, superstar
Mitchell has been sensational all season. His numbers are up across the board. He’s playing engaged defense for the most part — a massive step forward from where he was at at the end of his Utah tenure. Mitchell has been everything the Cavs hoped he would be and more.
Maybe the highlight play the game for Mitchell was a play that was a defensive play. It ends in a highlight dunk, but it only happens because Mitchell works on defense and fights.
Good defense from Donovan Mitchell here. At the nail to help as Westbrook comes off. Recovers to Reaves and contains the penetration. Finishes on the other end. pic.twitter.com/BSiYACQUVp— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) December 7, 2022
Mitchell received MVP chants at the end of the game from the Cleveland crowd. He may not win MVP ultimately, but he deserves to be in the conversation for the season he’s having. At the very least, Mitchell is having an All-NBA caliber season — something he hasn’t accomplished yet.
This game is an encapsulation of why. Mitchell is playing a consistently high level, scoring efficiently and showing up for a big minutes. He is not the only reason, but Mitchell is a massive part of why the Cavs are in the best shape they’ve ever been without the guy they beat on Tuesday.
Welcome back, Jarrett Allen
The Cavs missed Jarrett Allen. He also couldn’t have come back and performed better than he did.
Allen integrated himself back into the flow perfectly. He finished 11-14 from the field, running the floor, filling the lane and clearing needed space in the lane. He was stout on defense too, regularly contesting shots, playing the passing lane and making off hard for the Lakers.
The Cavs functioned without Allen — Evan Mobley was largely stout while filling in at center and showed some growth as a rim protector. But Allen raises Cleveland’s level — he adds an entire other layer to the defense. To be elite, they need him. And in his first game back, Cleveland was elite — finishing with a defensive rating of 100.4 in the win. That would be the best mark in the league over the full season by over seven points.
Up next: The Cavs host Mike Brown’s Sacramento Kings on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.