Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley refuse to go down without a fight vs. Celtics

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 10, 2024

After looking overmatched and overwhelmed in Game 1, when the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 14-5 early to the Boston Celtics in Game 2, it felt like it would be the same result on a different night for Cleveland. Instead, the Cavs flipped the script, stunning the Celtics at home and sending this series back to Cleveland tied at one win for either side.

There’s a tried-but-true saying in sports: A playoff series doesn’t start until a team wins on the other’s home floor. With the Cavs’ most complete win since mid-January, Cleveland has turned what many outsiders thought would be a walk in the park for Boston into a heavy-weight title match.

Thanks in part to the heroics of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley.

How the Cavs were able to stun the Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts after a basket buy forward Evan Mobley (4) against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs knew they would need more than just Mitchell to win against the Boston Celtics in Game 2. Sure, the expectation would’ve been for Mitchell to set the tone with the rest of Cleveland following his example. But in the first half, it wasn’t Mitchell’s scoring that got the Cavs rolling; it was his playmaking. Instead, the player doing most of the scoring and setting the tone for Cleveland was Mobley, who put together the best performance of his professional career.

Behind a strong start from Mobley, who opened the game with 11 points and a rare three-pointer, the Cavs caught the Celtics on their heels in the first quarter. Mobley, who drew the start at center for an ailing Jarrett Allen, has looked as poised and comfortable at the spot as he’s ever been, flirting with a first-half triple-double with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block.

Cleveland centered its entire offense around Mobley’s playmaking ability at the elbow, shooting 11-of-16 from two-point range and taking advantage of a sluggish Boston offense that shot 36% from the field. If Mobley didn’t pick up two quick fouls in the third quarter that forced the Cavs to turn to Tristan Thompson, then his stellar 21-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist, 2-block show would’ve been even more hefty counting stat-wise.

Thankfully, Mobley had Mitchell, who cooked Boston alive in the second half, building the success his big man had built to guide Cleveland to a road playoff win.

Of his 29 points, Mitchell scored 23 of them in the second half. He came out laser-focused on hurting the Celtics from the perimeter and keeping any momentum Boston was trying to build from sustaining. Mitchell went 4-5 from the perimeter in the third frame and even got Celtics guard Derrick White to bite on an attempt to earn three attempts at the free throw line.

Cleveland’s superstar was clinical in his approach toward carving up Boston’s defense in the second half, which is why the Cavs are going home tied up with the Celtics in this best-of-seven series. Mitchell’s scoring outburst shouldn’t be a total surprise since these playoff moments are why Cleveland traded the farm to acquire Mitchell from the Utah Jazz.

But it was clear Mitchell didn’t force this scoring outburst; instead, he let his points come to him naturally while focusing on playing through and alongside Mobley in the first half. This was a nice sight and clearly conveyed the message that neither Mitchell nor the Cavs were fazed by how Game 1 ended. Momentum is in Cleveland’s corner and could lead to more wins as this playoff series has officially begun.