The Cleveland Cavaliers clinched home-court advantage in the first round with a 117-113 win over the Orlando Magic. In the process, the Cavs also secured their 12th 50-win season in the team’s 52-year history.
Caris LeVert continues to shoot the cover off the ball
Caris LeVert continues his string of good play with another impressive performance off the bench. He tallied 19 points on 7-10 shooting which included going 5-6 from deep.
Making the three-ball his main source of offense is the primary reason why the Cavs continue to play well with LeVert on the court. In the 20 games since the All-Star break, LeVert is taking 56.2% of his shots from beyond the arc and is knocking them down at a 48.9% clip. Before the break only 41% of his attempts were coming from distance and he was was only converting 36.4% of them.
While the three-point percentage is unsustainable, him being a more willing shooter has allowed him to fit in alongside the core four. Since the break, lineups with Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are outscoring opponents by 34.3 points per 100 possessions with a 123.2 offensive rating and an 88.9 defensive rating in 54 minutes (small sample size). On the season, that group has posted a 15.1 net rating.
We once again saw why this lineup is so successful as they won the six and a half minutes they shared the floor together by 11 points. The spacing LeVert has been able to provide completely opens up the offense allowing the core four to be the best versions of themselves. It continues to look like Koby Altman and company’s best move of the season was deciding to hang on to LeVert at the trade deadline.
Rebounding remains an issue
This was the seventh-straight game the Cavs were beaten handily on the offensive glass. Orlando was able to collect 34.1% of their missed shots resulting in 13 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points.
Dean Wade has been inserted into the starting lineup for the injured Isaac Okoro the last two games in an effort to help the Cavs in this area. Unfortunately for Cleveland, this still remains an issue with him on the floor.
It was easy to dismiss this as an area of concern when Jarrett Allen was sidelined. The Cavs have been a much better rebounding team on the season with Allen on the floor, but his return hasn’t put an end to this problem.
The Cavs will have their hands full in the first round against the New York Knicks if this issue can’t be remedied in some way.
Donovan Mitchell refuses to score less than 40 points
Mitchell stole the show once again the fourth quarter as he poured in 12 points on 4-6 shooting in the final frame. He finished the evening with 43 on 15-23 (65.2%) shooting with 4 assists and a block. This was his fourth straight 40-point game.
Mitchell’s fit with the team is better than anyone could’ve reasonably imagined coming into this season. His buy-in on the defensive end has allowed the Cavs to continue being one of the best defensive teams. Mitchell’s elite off-the-dribble scoring and penchant for stepping up in the clutch has carried the offense to victories they struggled to close out last season.
It’s fitting that Mitchell’s secured homecourt in the first round and the 50th win of the season in a way that’s emblematic of his play the entire season. There are many factors that have gone into the Cavs rebuild going as smoothly as it has, but Mitchell is the one who’s vaulted Cleveland back into the playoffs.
It’s difficult to put a ceiling on this team when you’re getting play like this from Mitchell.
Up next: The Cavs will conclude their two-game road series against the Magic on Thursday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.