Donovan Mitchell laments ‘mental errors’ that cost Cavs in Game 3 loss to Celtics

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 12, 2024

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics were in a dogfight exiting halftime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. At least it felt that way until the Celtics opened the second half on a 14-0 run, with the Cavs not stopping the bleeding until Donovan Mitchell connected on a turnaround jumper nearly four minutes in.

Even after Mitchell’s two points, part of a 33-point performance for Cleveland’s superstar, the Cavs were still down 21 and found themselves trying to get themselves out of a hole they dug themselves for the rest of the game. The end result was a 106-93 loss and a 2-1 series deficit.

“It changed the game,” said Mitchell postgame. “Give them credit; they came out with a sense of urgency. It’s tough to come back from that.

“They came out with intention on both ends of the floor, really on the offensive end, and when they get going, that’s who they are. They hit a three, and it’s three after three after three, and then you overhelp on layups, and now that you’re helping on layups, that’s how they get another three.

“That really changed the complexity of the whole game. It’s hard to fight an uphill battle, and although we fought and clawed back, that start of the third quarter, that’s what did it.”

Cavs let Celtics feel too comfortable in a hostile environment

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) controls the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) in the third quarter of game three of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In the grand scheme of things, to Mitchell, that third-quarter run Boston went on wasn’t the only moment that cost Cleveland this pivotal Game 3. Sure, it might’ve put the Cavs in a position where they had to scrap and claw to the finish line more than they wanted to. But, in Mitchell’s eyes, it indicated the overall night Cleveland had at home against the Celtics.

“I think everybody’s gonna point to the third quarter, but I’m gonna point to the beginning of the game,” said Mitchell.  “I think that nine of their first 17 shots were three-pointers. I think those were all just mental errors. So now they see the ball go in, and they see attempts, and even if they missed one, it’s like, okay, they can address that leading into the third quarter, and now they’re making them.

“I mean, we were right there with them, but they got looks that they didn’t get and that we didn’t allow them to get in Game 1 and Game 2.”

Mitchell further shared that he felt Cleveland was pressing too much, trying to make “home run plays” on some possessions, and he even fell victim to this. There was a possession where Mitchell pulled up from three-point range and completely airmailed it, something he criticized himself for postgame since he knows how valuable every offensive possession is in the playoffs.

But by trying to regain all the momentum they had lost while letting the Celtics get comfortable and find shots on the floor that the Cavs normally hadn’t allowed, things got out of hand quickly.

Even if Cleveland was able to scrap and claw Boston’s lead back to single digits, the Celtics continued to maintain their composure, hitting timely fourth-quarter shots to keep the game just out of reach.

Mitchell shared that this was the most frustrating postseason loss he has had since joining the Cavs due to these self-inflicted errors that let Boston find comfort. But despite the frustrating outcome, Mitchell knows that he and his teammates will remain even-keeled, with their focus now shifted toward Game 4 and a chance to tie up the series.

“This series is not gonna be easy, said Mitchell. “We’re just going to continue to fight and claw like we have been. So, this happened, and my biggest thing has always been all year is how we respond. At the end of the day, we have things we can clean up and have a response on Monday.”