Cavs star Donovan Mitchell takes charge in fourth quarter win over Pacers
CLEVELAND — The Pacers learned the hard way that they shouldn’t bother the bear. And the Cavs are getting used to seeing what the bear can do.
Trailing by double digits against Indiana entering the fourth quarter on Friday night, Donovan Mitchell took over, hitting a flurry of 3-pointers and a few layups to lead the Cavs to a 118-112 come-from-behind victory. He matched the Pacers’ fourth-quarter point total (18) alone and almost single-handedly led the charge, which included a head-to-head tie with Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin that sparked the comeback.
“You don’t pin the bear, and he was pinned and he went on and did what he did,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said. “But he got everyone going, that’s the thing. That’s leadership. The ability to impact others as well.”
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The Cavs trailed for most of the night as their normally strong defense went up in flames. The Pacers entered the fourth quarter with 94 points and an 11-point lead. Throughout the night, the fact that the Cavs were constantly down was met with a bit of trash talk between both teams. The loose-ball draw with Mathurin was, in part, to send a message.
“Yeah, it’s just about toughness,” Mitchell said. He was willing to take a technical foul for that. I think for me, leadership comes in different forms, and that’s one of them. … I think for me, [it’s] just trying to set that tone that we’re just not going to back down and that’s really all it was.”
From then on, the Cavs’ defensive energy increased. Even on a 41-point night, that play was the key.
“That is just our fight. I knew Don wasn’t going to let the ball go,” said Darius Garland, who had 20 points and 10 assists in the win. That’s what we did.”
The Cavs’ top-tier defense was being torn apart by the Pacers. And Mitchell, especially, was being scored too often for his own liking. Mitchell said after the game that he was in the third quarter when he knew he would have to go into takeover mode. It wasn’t just the scoring flurry, as his own defense was needed to slow Indiana’s pace.
“My problem was they kept scoring on me and then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to score again,’ and that’s not great basketball. So I really had to like to make sure and be able to stop… That really put me in march because I’m letting my teammates down. The offense comes and goes, but the defense, like you can’t do one thing and not the other. You have to be able to do both sides and that was it for me. when I started trying to be more aggressive.”
Donovan Mitchell scores the third 40-point game of the 2022-23 season
Mitchell taking charge of a fourth quarter is turning out to be a sight the Cavs are enjoying. He also dominated the fourth quarter in a win against LeBron James and the Lakers recently. On Friday night he posted his third 40-point game of the season and the sixth time he’s scored at least 37. He has proven to be one of the most valuable offseason additions in the league.
“He’s so good that he can put you on your back when you’re not at your best,” Bickerstaff said. “He has the ability to run an offense in times where there’s that struggle. His teammates understand him and know how to give him the ball. It’s never about him. It’s always about what the team needs right now and I think it’s because of So it’s easy for guys to come out and help him, compete with him and help put him in spots to create opportunities.”
But it doesn’t always seem like Mitchell has the game in his hands, which is by design. Because of her ability to play inside the Cavs’ offense without forcing anything, Caris LeVert didn’t even realize she had reached the 40-point mark.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know he was 40 until he walked into the locker room, just the way he does it. It’s all in the flow of the game,” LeVert said. “Nothing is really forced. When you’re as good as him, you make it look so easy. We’re definitely blessed to have him on our team. Not a lot of people can do that and make it look that easy.” .”
For a quarter, Mitchell led the Cavs offensively, defensively and emotionally, a performance that earned him MVP chants as he hit a few free throws late in the game, one that looked like Cleveland was going to lose all night. He pricked a bear, and as a result, the Pacers blew out of Cleveland without a win.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.