Donovan Mitchell Called Out by Darius Garland After Cavaliers Drop Opener to Knicks

Donovan Mitchell Cleveland Cavaliers

Getty Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Saturday night wasn’t quite the opening salvo that the Cleveland Cavaliers hoped for in Game One of the Eastern Conference’s playoffs first round against the New York Knicks. Cleveland was held to 97 points, just the eighth time this season the league’s ninth-best offense was limited to fewer than 100 points all year. Jalen Brunson was magnificent for New York, finishing with 27 points in the 101-97 win.

Over half of the team’s total points came from two sources: Donovan Mitchell (38) and Darius Garland (17). The only other Cavalier to finish in double-digit scoring was Jarrett Allen (14).

Mitchell and Garland have combined to form one of the league’s most potent backcourt tandems. And after the game, Garland went on the record to explain Mitchell’s importance Saturday night.

“Donovan’s really good,” Garland said after the game, per the Cavaliers’ official YouTube page. “We need that the whole series and beyond. I mean, it’s really good for him just to see a couple go through and just get hot like that when we need him. It was a good feeling for all of us, him as well, and everybody in the building to see a couple go through from him, get the energy back up in the building. And on the defensive end, I think he was great. A lot of effort.”

Cavs vs Knicks Post Game: Darius GarlandCleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland spoke to the media following a 101-97 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 1 of the 2023 Playoffs on April 15, 2023.2023-04-16T01:48:43Z

While the playoff lights might have shined a bit too bright for Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro, the real culprit on Saturday was Cleveland’s bench.

JB Bickerstaff Calls Out Cavs Bench After Knicks Loss

The Cavaliers brought just four players off the bench against New York on Saturday: Ricky Rubio, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, and Caris LeVert. The foursome combined for just 14 points for the game, par for the course in what’s been a disappointing season for the Cavs’ role players.

Coach JB Bickerstaff was not impressed by his bench’s performance against the Knicks in the home opener.

“I mean obviously our bench has to give us a spark, we gotta find a way to manufacture some buckets,” Bickerstaff said. “You know, how do we create for one another and how does our bench support our starting cast? We’ll go back and we’ll take a look at it, you know, but at some point in time, you got to find a way to just put the ball in the basket and I thought, I mean that unit kind of struggled there. I thought Cedi was really good, he gave us a good burst and then you know, at the end of the day you can’t give up 17 offensive rebounds.”

It gets worse. Josh Hart, who played hero for the Knicks late against the Cavs, outscored the entire Cavs bench 17-14. To be clear, Hart didn’t crack the Knicks starting lineup on Saturday.

JB Bickerstaff Calls Knicks Loss ‘Lesson’

Despite the disappointing outing from the bench and from Mobley and Okoro, Bickerstaff was quick to remind reporters that the team is still green.

“Our guys are learning,” Bickerstaff said following the loss. “We play a ton of guys a ton of minutes who are learning what playoff basketball is about. We’ve talked about it. You have to experience it to understand it. This was a lesson. We experienced it and we’ve got to bounce back from it and correct the things we can correct, which I think there was a lot of.”

Chalk it up to the team’s first real taste of postseason glory. But now without home-court advantage, the Cavs now face an even tougher test against a regular-season opponent that went 3-1 against the team from Lake Erie.

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