NBA playoffs: Donovan Mitchell's 39 points fuel furious second half comeback, Game 7 win over Magic

Donovan Mitchell did it again and the Cleveland Cavaliers are onto the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Mitchell didn’t score 50 points, as he did in Friday’s Game 6. But he scored 39 points in Sunday afternoon’s Game 7, which the Cavs won, 106–94, over the Orlando Magic.

Early on, Mitchell again had little help. Yet for the second consecutive game, he carried the Cavs. Despite Jalen Suggs playing tough defense on him, Mitchell put together another superstar performance. In the first half, Mitchell shot 3-for-13 for 15 points. But he went hard at Suggs to score 17 points in the third and fuel a comeback.

Caris LeVert added 15 for the Cavaliers with Max Strus scoring 13 and Darius Garland getting 12, giving Mitchell more support than he received in Friday’s loss. Evan Mobley led the defensive effort with 16 rebounds and five blocks.

Jarrett Allen missed his third consecutive game with a bruised rib and the Cavs continued to miss his rebounding and shot-blocking talents near the basket.

The home team won each game of the series. Orlando appeared to be taking control after blowing Cleveland out in Games 3 and 4. And in Game 6, the Cavs couldn’t even score 100 despite Mitchell’s 50 points.

Cleveland looked like a team that had virtually nothing left, falling behind by 18 points in the second quarter. However, they cut the deficit to 10 points, 53–43, at halftime and stormed back to take the lead midway through the third. The Cavaliers outscored Orlando, 33–15, in the third quarter to take a 76–68 lead into the fourth.

Outside shooting continued to be a major issue for the Cavaliers in the first half. They shot only 2-for-11 (17.8%) from behind the arc with Sam Merrill hitting both of them.

However, Strus hit two 3-pointers to break Cleveland’s long-range struggles and help the rally effort. And a 3 from Garland gave the Cavs their biggest lead at 88–77 with just under six minutes remaining in the game.

If Paolo Banchero hadn’t already arrived as an NBA star, he tried to announce his presence in his first playoff Game 7 with the Magic’s season at stake.

As Stephen A. Smith said during ESPN’s halftime show, “The brother is big-time.” Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, scored 38 points with 16 rebounds and three steals in a losing effort. This time, he was the one who didn’t get enough help from his teammates.

Banchero only scored four points in the third quarter, shooting 1-for-7 with Isaac Okoro checking him. Banchero’s slowdown was a significant factor in Cleveland’s comeback.

Wendell Carter Jr. totaled 13 points and Suggs added 10, but no other Magic player scored in double figures. That included Franz Wagner, who scored double-digit points in each of the previous six games of the series, highlighted by 34 in Game 4 and 26 in Game 6. Wagner scored only six points, shooting 1-for-15 from the field (and 0-for-5 from three).

For the Cavaliers, the playoff series win is the first for the team since the 2017-18 season. That squad, led by LeBron James, advanced to the NBA Finals where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

Once the outcome looked certain, fans in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse began to chant “We want Boston!” As Mike Breen explained on the ESPN broadcast, Mitchell tried to quiet down talk of the Cavs’ next opponent until the game was over.

But now, Cleveland will face the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics, who finished with the NBA’s best record at 64–18. The Cavaliers went 1–2 vs. the Celtics during the regular season, losing two games at Boston and winning one in Cleveland.

Game 1 of the Cavaliers-Celtics second-round series is scheduled for Tuesday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET with the telecast on TNT.

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