Donovan Mitchell Led The Cavs To A Game 7 Win And First Series Win Without LeBron Since 1993

Our first Game 7 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs arrived on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, and despite falling into a huge first half deficit, the Cavaliers managed to take down the Magic, 106-94, and advance to the conference semis against the Celtics.

Early on it did not look like the trend of the home team winning each game would continue in Game 7, as the Magic ran away to a huge early advantage with the Cavs looking shell-shocked. Paolo Banchero carried the load in the first half for Orlando, scoring 24 points in a thoroughly dominant showing, as he put the Magic on his back.

However, after taking an 18-point lead, the Magic saw Cleveland claw back into it late in the second thanks to a bench spark from Caris LeVert and Sam Merrill. They provided some much-needed offensive juice to keep the Cavs attached while their stars struggled from the field.

In the third quarter, it was the Donovan Mitchell show. While he had 15 in the first half, he only shot 3-of-13 from the field, but quickly got into a rhythm in the third quarter by pushing the pace. Mitchell had 17 third quarter points to outscore Orlando by himself, quickly erasing Cleveland’s deficit and pushing them to the lead.

However, Mitchell needed someone to provide some help, and they got it in the form of their big offseason acquisition, Max Strus. The former Heat wing finally got rolling from three, scoring 11 points in the third (after a scoreless first half) to push the Cavs lead out to eight going to the fourth.

Even as the Cavs cooled off to start the fourth quarter, the Magic simply could not pry the lid off the rim. While the Cavs got timely buckets from LeVert and Strus to aid Mitchell, the Magic couldn’t provide similar support to Banchero. Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs had dreadful games, combining to go 3-of-24 from the field, which allowed the Cavs to tilt their defense fully towards Banchero in the second half, forcing him to go through the entire defense any time he wanted to try and score — and, impressively, he was able to do that some in the fourth to keep Orlando within reach.

However, the Magic were never able to establish a rhythm around their star and with shots not falling, Orlando began to fade away. On the other end, the Cavs were able to get some timely buckets from non-Mitchell members. LeVert continued his strong night off the bench, scoring 15, while Darius Garland finally hit a shot from the corner and Evan Mobley even got a couple paint buckets.

The Cavs were able to gut out the win thanks to another incredible Mitchell performance but, more importantly, the supporting cast picking him up in support. Mitchell finished with 39 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on 11-of-26 shooting, with LeVert giving them those 15 off the bench, Strus chipping in 13 (11 in that third quarter run), Mobley had 11 points, 16 boards, and four blocks, Garland added 12 (10 in the fourth), and Isaac Okoro had eight and was a game-high +27 thanks to his incredible defensive effort.

On the other side, Banchero’s 36-point, 15-rebound double-double wasn’t quite enough given the lack of help. Wendell Carter Jr. had 13 points and Suggs finished with 10 (on 13 shots), but with Wagner only scoring six, they just could not apply enough pressure to the Cavs defense to create space to operate for Banchero in the second half. The Magic now see where they have to improve for next year. Some of that will be internal, with Wagner needing to become a more confident and willing shooter, but some of that is knowing they need to improve their backcourt rotation. Orlando pretty desperately needs to add a veteran guard capable of settling them down on offense and getting them a good shot when things start moving quickly. If they can do that, Banchero proved himself as a star in this series and the defensive core is truly that good.

For Cleveland, this was a critical performance in Game 7 after the way they exited the postseason a year ago. Mitchell was fantastic, and they were the stronger, more assertive team down the stretch. Now they face an immense task going up against the Celtics in the second round, but finally got their first playoff win without LeBron James since 1993 and will be playing with house money against the East’s best team.