For much of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ opening game against the New York Knicks on Saturday night, All-Star Donovan Mitchell was as good as advertised. The New York native went for a game-high 38 points, singlehandedly keeping the game tight.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Game Two matchup, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau was candid about the need for his team to adjust to Mitchell’s potent offense.
“We obviously have to do a lot better. And he’s a tough cover,” Thibodeau said, per the New York Post. “Take a look at the film. See how we can improve. We know we’re going to have to be tougher, play better.”
Thibs isn’t the only one to highlight Mitchell’s excellent performance on Saturday.
Darius Garland Praises Donovan Mitchell After Knicks Loss
Since the duo was formed over the summer, Mitchell and Darius Garland have formed one of the league’s most potent backcourt duos in professional basketball. The duo was back it on Saturday, combining for more than half of Cleveland’s total points (55).
After the game, Garland praised his teammate’s contributions.
“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.”
While Mitchell did everything in his power to keep the Cavs in the game on Saturday, he received little help from Cleveland’s role players.
JB Bickerstaff Calls Out Cavs Bench Against Knicks
Coach Bickerstaff kept the leash tight on his bench on Saturday. Only four players — Caris LeVert, Dean Wade, Ricky Rubio, and Cedi Osman — saw time on the floor.
That quartet combined for just 14 total points; by comparison, Josh Hart came off the bench for New York and managed 17 points alone.
It was a weak performance, one that Bickerstaff was quick to call out after Saturday’s loss.
“I mean obviously our bench has to give us a spark, we gotta find a way to manufacture some buckets,” Bickerstaff told reporters. “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 (Osman) 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.”
The Cavs’ offensive bench woes have been a constant all season. The unit finished 28th in offensive rating, forcing the Cavs’ starters to play the third-highest total number of minutes of any starting fivesome.
Against the Knicks, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Donovan Mitchell, and Darius Garland averaged 42 minutes apiece. Thankfully, the Cavs feature young legs that can likely withstand the heavy workload.