Donovan Mitchell’s injury
Mitchell left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained finger on his left hand. He was probable to return after heading to the locker room — but remained on the bench as Cleveland held a comfortable 30-point lead.
Status alert: Donovan Mitchell (hand) has returned to Cavaliers' bench Saturday.— Underdog NBA (@Underdog__NBA) March 5, 2023
The Cavs are all-too-familiar with finger injuries near the end of the regular season. Jarrett Allen injured his finger on a block attempt in early March 2022 and was unavailable to return until April when the Cavaliers’ faced the Atlanta Hawks in the Play-In Tournament.
Mitchell’s injury might not be as bothersome as Allen’s. Hopefully this isn’t something that lingers over the remainder of the season.
Taking care of business
The Cavs entered tonight as 16-point favorites and made bettors happy with a 24-point victory. With fewer than two games separating Cleveland from both the third and fifth seeds, capturing an easy win was paramount.
It was a bit of a slow start with the Pistons hanging tight until the third quarter. Cleveland outscored Detroit 42-22 in the third and was able to coast to victory in the fourth. Bench players like Lamar Stevens and Caris LeVert provided quality two-way play as the Cavs built their lead. LeVert notched 11 points while Stevens added 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Taking care of business against a weaker opponent gave the Cavs an opportunity to rest their stars — as well as give the bench an extended run, with even Danny Green and Sam Merrill getting on the court.
More importantly, the Cavs capitalized on an easy victory at home. This keeps them in a position to have homecourt advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs which could be huge. Cleveland is 27-7 when playing at home this season versus 13-19 when on the road.
Defense, defense, defense
It is no secret the Cavaliers hang their hat on the defensive side of the floor and they did just that, holding Detroit to only 90 points in this game. They’ve held the Pistons to below 100 points in all four of their meetings this season and Cleveland leads the league in this category, holding opponents under 100 in 21 different games.
Evan Mobley struggled shooting but provided what he does best — defense. He blocked 4 shots and helped Jarrett Allen in an effort to hold James Wiseman to just 1-6 shooting. Allen provided 2 steals and his usual deterrence in the paint.
The bench was equally as effective with Stevens leading the charge defensively. His physical presence helped change the course of the game in the third and also scored a handful of his points in transition after a stop.
Being a tough defensive team is at the core of Cleveland’s identity. Maintaining this groove will be key in an upcoming rematch with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.
Up next: The Cavaliers will have a chance for revenge with the Celtics coming to Cleveland for a showdown on Monday, March 6.