Dribbles: Cavs Scrap, Rally, Push Past Magic, And Ready Or Not, Here Comes Boston

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic, NBA

1. Whew. What more can you really say? That truly about covers it all.

2. The Cavaliers turned it on when necessary — especially, again, Donovan Mitchell — and now it’s on to the next. Game 1 is Tuesday at Boston.

2. How’s that for a quick turnaround? But hey, it took a quick turnaround for the Cavs just to get out of the first round. And what a remarkable turnaround it was.

3. They trailed by 18 points in the first half. They trailed by 10 at halftime. They could get nothing going and couldn’t seem to stop Orlando. The thought at that point was, “Oh boy. This ain’t good.”

4. But Mitchell insisted the Cavs’ confidence never wavered. “Once we cut it to five …” he said, his voice trailing. But you get the point. Once the Cavs cut it to five, that was about it. The Magic just melted. “We continued to fight and claw,” was the way Mitchell described the comeback.

5. Mitchell scored 39 one game after erupting for 50. That means he’s averaging 44.5 over the last two closeout games. “Just doing my job,” he said, sort of shrugging.

6. That said, it’s hard to argue with coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who called this a team victory in the truest sense. “Everybody who played gave us something,” he said.

7. Caris LeVert, who struggled mightily in the first six games, finally came to life, offering 15 points of tons of fearlessness in reserve. He was a massive reason why the Cavs are still alive.

8. LeVert on the comeback: “I think we showed a lot of fight and that’s just our team.”

9. Meanwhile, Isaac Okoro gave a defensive effort that young players everywhere should study. He utterly battled 6-foot-10 All-Star Paolo Banchero possession after thankless possession — wrestling, scrapping, sacrificing his body and refusing to back down. It’s true that Banchero scored 38, but 15 of them came from the free-throw line. That means he had to earn a heck of a lot of them. He also shot just 10-of-28 from the field.

10. Or how about this — the Cavs hung with the considerably lengthier Magic on the glass, grabbing just one less rebound (49-48). That’s despite the fact Jarrett Allen missed his third straight game with a rib injury. (FYI: I’m hearing he could return vs. Boston.)

11. At one point in third quarter, right after Garland blew a layup, Mitchell wrapped his arm around Garland on the bench. He pulled him close and spoke in his ear. Garland indicated that he couldn’t get anything going. Mitchell said he told him that “I don’t give a damn what’s happened.” Mitchell then told Garland he still believed in him.

12. Later, Garland missed a corner 3-pointer. Max Strus snared the offensive rebound (because that’s just Strus for you) and kicked it to Mitchell, who passed it back to Garland in the corner. This time, Garland buried it. No one celebrated more than Mitchell. 

13. It put the Cavs up by 11, and it was then that you pretty much knew the young Magic were doomed. Garland was making buckets now, too, and that can be a lot for an opponent to overcome in Cleveland.

14. Strus (13 points) got hot in the third quarter, hitting some 3-pointers and helping spur the rally. Sam Merrill (eight) buried two vital threes off the bench in the first half, keeping the Cavs in it and offering signs of life. Evan Mobley (11 points) hit some shots late and was fantastic defensively all afternoon, recording 16 rebounds and five big blocks. Garland scored 12, and all but two came in the fourth quarter. 

15. By the way, Mitchell also grabbed nine rebounds. Oh, and the Cavs forced Magic forward Franz Wagner into a miserable 1-of-15 shooting performance.

16. So that’s it. The Cavs escaped. Orlando hasn’t won a playoff series since 2010, but I suspect that’s gonna change here soon. The Magic are just getting started.

17. As for the Cavaliers, it’s on to the Celtics and the team that finished with the NBA’s best record.

18. Mitchell on that very subject: “I hate to be that guy … but we can and we have to be better to beat Boston.”

19. When the Cavs were in the middle of their third-quarter run, Bickerstaff turned to the crowd, started clapping and got the fans going. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a coach do that before, and I say that with a great deal of admiration.

20. Bickerstaff on the comeback: “This group has been left for dead by a lot of people multiple times this season …”

21. But here they are — the Cleveland Cavaliers, still alive, winners of their first playoff series without LeBron James on the team since 1993. That one came over the Nets, back when first-round series were just five games. Just like those Cavs, these Cavs will go down in franchise lore. Now, let’s see what they can do from here.

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  1. Can’t believe they won. I turned the game off and went to bed. Woke up and am shocked. I’ll say good job and leave it at that.

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