Dribbles: Donovan Mitchell, Cavs Rise At Right Time, And It’s Top Four Seed Yet Again

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers‘ 129-120 home win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday, a game with massive NBA playoff implications. …Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. This is one the Cavs had to have. They knew it and they played like it. For all the injuries and inconsistencies of the second half, they gave one of their best performances of the season when it meant the absolute most.

2. Center Jarrett Allen summed it up perfectly. “This was the closest to a playoff game before the playoffs we were gonna get,” he said. “I think we felt that as an organization. … I wanted to get this one for us.”

3. And man, did that ever show. Allen was remarkable with 29 points on a sizzling 13-of-14 from the field. He added a game-high 13 rebounds for good measure.

4. More Allen: “This is just the perfect example of how we should play moving forward.”

5. Thanks to the win, the Cavs have clinched at least the fourth seed in the NBA East. They can still move up to third, but they’ll need some help.

6. More specifically, if the Cavs (48-33) beat Charlotte on Sunday, and Milwaukee loses at Orlando, the Cavs will be third. In any other scenario, they’re fourth.

7. Either way, it’s home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs for the second straight year. By winning this game, the Cavs kept the Pacers (46-35) from finishing any better than fifth.

8. If I had to predict, the Cavs will face either the Magic or Pacers in the first round. I’m leaning toward Indiana. But to be clear, it’s just a prediction based on nothing more than my (ever-expanding) gut.

9. In other great news, Donovan Mitchell was again fantastic, scoring 33 points with five assists. He has looked like his All-Star self again in each of the last two games. 

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff: “It’s great for us, but it’s great for him. He showed again who we all know Donovan to be.”

11. As for winning the most important game of the season and officially clinching a playoff spot, Mitchell had this to say: “It’s to be expected, to be honest. That’s what we do, that’s who we are.”

12. Last year, the Cavs finished fourth and lost in the first round to New York. It wasn’t really even close. Yeah, sorry to remind you.

13. But this year isn’t that, Mitchell insisted. “Last year is last year. … Whoever we see this year we see. I think we’re in a good spot.”

14. Mitchell also talked about the Cavs’ struggles on the recent trip out West, saying he knew the Cavs were better than that all along. The win on Friday proved him right.

15. Bickerstaff only used eight guys, but each contributed in his own way. Caris LeVert came off the bench to score 16 much-needed points. Darius Garland also had 16, and while his night could be considered a little shaky, he hit a massive stepback 3-pointer with 50 seconds left. That turned a two-point lead into five. 

16. Evan Mobley added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile, Max Strus couldn’t hit anything, finishing just 2-of-10 from the field. But he also made a key three, grabbed five rebounds and passed for a team-high nine assists.

17. So, yes, the Cavs got a little something from everyone. That’s what they’ll need in the playoffs and again, it’s good to see they did it on a night that very much was like a playoff game.

18. More Bickerstaff: “Great sign for us to find the moment and rise to the occasion. They came out and really played a spirited game. You could go down the list of guys who stepped up and made gritty plays.”

19. Frankly, I had a feeling that after all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth following the West trip the Cavs would come home and take care of business. Sometimes, it only takes that one game to get it turned around in the NBA. This was the Cavs’ night to do it and they delivered. And that’s the bottom line.

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