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Donovan Mitchell on his ailing knee: 'I don't have time' to rest | Jeff Schudel

Apr. 10—If Donovan Mitchell's left knee could talk, I wonder what it would say?

Maybe it would say, "Play me. I'm good to go. I can deal with it."

Or maybe it would say, "You have no idea how much this is really hurting, but I'm not going to complain. My teammates have their own injuries that they're dealing with."

This is what Mitchell himself said April 10 after scoring 29 points to lead the Cavs past the Memphis Grizzlies, 110-98, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse:

"There's nothing structurally wrong ... The biggest cure for this is rest. I don't have time for that."

Any chance the Cavaliers have of winning in the playoffs depends on Mitchell being a major contributor. Obviously. And that puts Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff in a delicate position.

Donovan Mitchell's confidence in his injured left knee got a boost Wednesday night when he played 34 minutes and scored 29 points to lead the #Cavaliers past the Grizzlies, 110-98. pic.twitter.com/fs9ZFXLjHk

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) April 11, 2024

The final two games of the regular season are crucial to where the Cavs are seeded in the playoffs. How does Bickerstaff balance resting and playing Mitchell? The playoffs don't start until April 20 — assuming the Cas avoid the play-in tournament — so Mitchell will have at least some time to rest.

"We're going to give him the opportunity to play," Bickerstaff said. "I think the games that we've played recently here, he's gotten his minutes up. It's something that he wants to do, something he feels like he needs to do in order to prepare for where we're going.

"These are always conversations that we have. These guys know their bodies better than we do or than anybody does. We understand and he understands that we've got to get him to his best in order for us to be as successful as we can."

The Cavaliers (47-33) are fourth in the NBA East with home games against the Pacers (April 12) and Hornets (April 14) remaining in the regular season. They are a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic, who lost to the Bucks on April 10, and a half-game behind the third-place Knicks, who play the Celtics in Boston on April 11. They are 1.5 games behind second-place Milwaukee and one game ahead of sixth-place Indiana.

In other words, there is still much to decide in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers, even if Mitchell had been rested, should have beaten the Grizzlies easily. Twelve Memphis players were listed as "out" four hours before the 7pm tipoff with a variety of injuries. But the Cavaliers somehow trailed, 51-48, at halftime. Cavs center Jarrett Allen said the team was "uptight" in the first half. They took control when they outscored the Grizzlies, 30-16, in the third quarter.

Mitchell asserted himself as the floor leader, and his teammates followed that lead. He finished with eight assists. He was clapping and smiling, and unless he has an unlikely setback, he will have played in three straight games after the games with the Pacers and Hornets. It will be the first time for him playing in three straight since a stretch between Feb. 25-28. The Cavs were 2-1 in those games.

"The biggest thing for me is continuing to build my confidence back up in my body," Mitchell said. "I'm always confident on the basketball court. We have two games left before it's time to get going."

Mitchell has to get his shooting touch back for the Cavs to succeed. He was still on the floor when the Cavs had a 104-84 lead over Memphis with 3:49 to play. He finished 5-of-10 on 3s, 9-of-17 overall, while playing 34 minutes. He was 6-of-7 on free throws.

Mitchell has missed 24 games this season. From March 1 through April 7 he played in only six of 21 games. In addition to being treated for a bone bruise in his left knee he missed time recovering from surgery to repair a nasal fracture.

The Cavs were 2-4 in the games Mitchell played prior to the contest with the Grizzlies. He was 5-for-16 from the floor against the Pelicans (Cavs won), 4-for-13 vs. Rockets (loss), 4-for-13 vs. 76ers (win), 3-for-12 vs. Nuggets (loss), 8-for-17 vs. Suns (loss) and 4-for-13 vs. Lakers (loss).