Postseason basketball is full of ups and downs, but for Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Donovan Mitchell, Game Four was something of a serious personal nadir. The Big Apple native was back home, albeit as a visitor, playing to keep the Cavs from sinking into a 3-1 hole.
But on Sunday night, Mitchell looked less like the arachnid that his Stan Lee-inspired nickname warranted and far more like Peter Parker. He managed just two points in the second half, 11 in the game.
It simply wasn’t enough from the star whose arrival over the summer catapulted the Cavs out of rebuild mode and back into relevance for the first time since 2018. After the game, Darius Garland defended his teammate’s poor night out.
“I think he’s putting too much on himself,” Garland said of Mitchell. “That’s what All-Stars do. Just trying to blame everything on himself, but it’s not on him. This is a group effort. This is Cleveland basketball. Anything he says that he puts on himself, don’t listen to him. I mean everybody has nights like this. He’s been one of the leaders of this group this entire year. When he goes, we go. He’s going to move on to the next one. We’re going to keep his head high, we’re going to have his back no matter what.”
Now, the Cavs return to Cleveland looking to crawl out of a 3-1 deficit, something that’s been done only 13 times in NBA history. Although the Cavaliers do have some come-from-behind in their DNA: the 2016 side famously overcame a 3-1 hole to beat the Golden State Warriors and win the franchise’s first Finals.
Donovan Mitchell Sounds Off on Poor Game Versus Knicks
Mitchell didn’t pull any punches on his off night when speaking to reporters after the game.
“I didn’t show up for my teammates,” Mitchell said, per Chris Fedor of cleveland.com. “Everybody did their job, and I didn’t do what I was capable of. That’s on me. I played like s***. I’m the leader of this group. Everybody did their job. I didn’t. Simple as that.”
In addition to his 11 points, Mitchell shot just 5-18 from the field and 0-4 from three. In a series roundly expected to be a referendum on the Knicks‘ failure to land Mitchell over the summer, New York has looked perfectly fine without the star man.
Mitchell wasn’t alone in his Houdini-esque disappearing act on Sunday. Jarrett Allen finished with 14 points in 40 minutes. Evan Mobley has looked far from the Defensive Player of the Year candidate he finished the season as, while his offense has equally sputtered. The disappointing play from both has led to questions about whether Cleveland’s twin towers style roster is capable of handling the smaller, springier lineups the likes of which New York has deployed during the series.
Donovan Mitchell Not Giving Up Hope
The Knicks have looked the better of the two teams for most of the series. New York has held the league’s eighth-best regular-season offense to fewer than 100 points in three of the four games so far, including a 79-point stinker in Game Three.
The Cavs haven’t shown much to convince fans that things will change anytime soon. Nonetheless, Mitchell is holding his head up high ahead of what figures to be a decisive Game Five.
“I believe in myself. I believe in this group. We believe in each other,” Mitchell said. “If you give up 3-1, you’re not built for these moments.”
The Knicks and Cavs hit the floor on Wednesday night.