Celtics Say They’re Well Aware That Cavs Don’t Go Down Easily, Citing ‘Ability To Go On Runs’

For the Cavaliers and Celtics, the second round of the NBA playoffs has finally begun.Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics, Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

This is the latest starting second-round series because it took the Cavs seven games to rid themselves of the Orlando Magic, despite being heavy favorites. This time, it’s Boston that is expected to run away with things.

But Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla also knows that the Cavs have Donovan Mitchell and that Mitchell is one of the game’s brightest stars. Mazzulla also is well aware that Mitchell scored 89 points in the final two games of the series vs. the Magic — 50 in a Game 6 road loss, and 39 in the series-clinching win in Cleveland on Sunday.

“So you saw in Game 6 it was a 50-point performance in a loss,” Mazzulla told reporters, via Jay King of The Athletic. “And you saw in Game 7 that he had (39 points and five assists) in a win. So you have to pick your poison. It’s gotta be disciplined.”

The Magic tried to defend Mitchell one-on-one a lot — using either guards Jalen Suggs or Gary Harris, and occasionally pulling from their catalog of big men. It worked in Game 6, as Mitchell scored each of the Cavs’ final 18 fourth-quarter points in Game 6 — but no one else got anything going. So the Magic finished the series with the mindset, “Let Mitchell go nuts and shut down everyone else.”

Everyone else finally stepped up — or at least helped — in Game 7. Nonetheless, the Celtics could try a different approach, aiming to make slowing Mitchell and Darius Garland their top priority.

“When you’re playing against guys like (Mitchell) and a team that has dynamic guards it usually comes down to the other things,” Mazzulla said. “It comes down to the impact that (Caris LeVert), (Max Strus), (Evan Mobley), (Isaac Okoro), those guys have. Transition defense, offensive rebounds, turnovers. Just really all of the details in the margins that we talked about in the last series kinda go under-shadowed when you see a caliber player like a Garland or a Mitchell. It still comes down to the margins and the details in this one.”

Boston won the season series, 2-1, with the Cavs’ lone victory being a 105-104 thriller in which Dean Wade (now injured) scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. It snapped an 11-game winning streak for Boston. It also came without Mitchell.

The Celtics expect to see that type of determination again and used the Cavs’ Game 7 win over the Magic as an example.

“Down 18 points, and they just never blinked,” Celtics guard Derrick White said, via King. “They just keep competing. We learned that first-hand when we played them in the regular season. They never give up, they’re always competing, and it’s going to be a fun challenge.”

Mazzulla added: “One of the things they do well is an ability to go on runs. Just kind of with their talent and also their effort and their defense.”

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