May 22, 2024

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Donovan Mitchell sets the tone for the Cavaliers with 30 points in Game 1

Donovan Mitchell sets the tone for the Cavaliers with 30 points in Game 1

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers star guard Donovan Mitchell got only two or three hours of sleep the night before Saturday's 97-83 Game 1 win over the Orlando Magic. He knew he needed his rest – especially with tip-off at 1pm ET – but he couldn't calm his excitement.

So he took a late night drive. While he was out, he met two children. They started shouting words of encouragement.

That level of enthusiasm is why Mitchell said he loves Game 1 of the playoffs more than anything else. This passion translates into his play as he had another 30-point performance in the first game.

“It's all about setting the tone,” said Mitchell, who scored 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting. “This is exciting and I love it and it's great but by the same token, this game is just one game. This is an attempt to set that tone but now we have to do it over and over again.”

It was the fifth straight game in which Mitchell scored at least 30 points, tying Alex English for the sixth-longest streak in NBA history and the longest among active players. Only Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Wilt Chamberlain have longer streaks.

“He's ready for this moment,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It's the first game. They're the bigger games during the regular season. Like, he's got the ability and understanding of how important starting is. … Some people might have this idea or thought and understanding of it. But he's got the ability to time and time [again] Go into that space.”

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This space also exists outside of Game 1.

Through the first 45 playoff games of his career, Mitchell had 21 30-point games. Over the past 40 years, there have only been two other players who have had more of these games: Jordan and Allen Iverson.

However, that didn't always lead to postseason success. Mitchell's Cavaliers lost in the first round of last season's playoffs in five games to the New York Knicks. Mitchell also never made it past the second round.

In his second year in Cleveland, Mitchell suffered multiple injuries and played in only 55 games. His latest setback – a knee injury – sidelined him for almost all of March.

Although he initially struggled upon his return, he is “improving 1% every day,” according to Mitchell.

He continues to stress that as much as there is a need to set the tone early, the ability to follow it consistently is even more important.

“This is who I am. This has been my message all year. This is why I'm here,” Mitchell said. “But it's one game… That's where I am, and now I'm doing it constantly.”

He continued: “It is wonderful to achieve this victory the way we achieved it, and the way we won it, but this is what we are and what we expect to be.”

In addition to Mitchell's scoring, the Cavaliers got a postseason-high 16 points and 11 rebounds from Evan Mobley and 16 points and 18 rebounds from Jarrett Allen — the first 15-point, 15-rebound Cavalier playoff game since LeBron James. In Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

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It helped overcome the lackluster shooting of Max Strus as well as the team's 3-point drought of 18 straight misses and 17 turnovers.

“As long as we stay here, stay here mentally, everyone [our ups and downs] “That was the reason,” Mitchell said. “We did that tonight, but we have to have that attitude to get four wins. Then four more. Then four more. It's nice to be happy, but it's only one. We've got three more to do.” Then the same thing and then we have to do it again.”

ESPN Statistics & Information Research contributed to this story.