Without Darius Garland, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Miami Heat 119-115 despite 42 points from Donovan Mitchell. The loss sees the Cavs split a two-game series with both games taking place in Miami.
As he’s done all year, Donovan Mitchell showed up
Donovan Mitchell tried to carry the world Friday. Without Darius Garland did everything. He an efficient 25 points in the first half, played heavy minutes and finished with his game-high 42.
Look at how he finished the first half. He got the ball, brought it up over half court and milked a ton of time off the clock. And then, with power and control, he crosses over Victor Oladipo to get off a clean three-pointer. He drilled it.
Look at how much space Mitchell created for himself. He had so much room that, even with Tyler Herro in position to make a late closeout, he’s not bothered. He has an ocean of space between him and anyone who can alter his shot.
the amount of space Donovan created with that stepback is insane lmao. Oladipo is nearly out of the frame pic.twitter.com/KQwZX5fvEm— Jordan Zirm (@JordanZirm) March 11, 2023
The only knock on Mitchell is that he looked like he ran out of gas down the stretch. He was 9-12 from the field in the first half and 6-18 in the second. And when he wasn’t making his looks the way he was in the first half, the Heat had an opening. Their own shotmaking was a big reason why the Heat came back; they were 12-17 from the field in the fourth. The Cavs couldn’t match it.
Isaac Okoro, thriving without the ball
This is the template for Isaac Okoro on offense. He finished with 16 points on 6-9 shooting and got his looks by and large, by making himself available.
Take this play for instance. He’s on the opposite wing, away from the action. He sees wide open space, so he cuts in. When Mitchell sees him, he hits him with a left handed pass right where Okoro can catch, go up and get the and-one.
This is what Okoro needs to do on offense. It was was especially big on a night where there was no Garland and the Cavs offense needed to find different ways of functioning. Okoro doing that adds another layer of use to the Cavs’ offense. It’s also the kind of play he’ll need to have in the playoffs when teams will do what Miami did and leave him alone.
Jarrett Allen watch
Allen — who played well against Miami — left late after getting hit in the eye by Bam Adebayo. He was on the ground before a bit before going back to the locker room with the Cavs’ training staff. It’s unclear right now how severe the injury is, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Postgame, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he didn’t have an update on Allen.
With the loss, and a 76ers win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Cavs are now 3.5 back of the 76ers for the third seed. They are also 2.5 up on the Knicks for the fourth seed.
This reinforces where Cleveland is at right now: Unlikely to catch Philadelphia, likely to stay ahead of New York. Barring a long winning streak down the stretch and some luck, it feels like the Cavs’ path is a first round series with home court advantage and a second round series against the No. 1 seed, be it Boston or Milwaukee.
Up next: Cleveland continues its current road trip on Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, winners of seven of their last 10. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.