Advertisement

Donovan Mitchell scores 30, Cavaliers open playoffs with tough-minded 97-83 win in Game 1 over Magic

CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, Jarrett Allen had 18 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series on Saturday.

Evan Mobley added 16 points for Cleveland, which got bullied and bounced in just five games by the New York Knicks in the 2023 postseason.

That experience scarred the Cavs, who entered these playoffs more confident, deeper (at least on paper) and relatively healthy after a regular season filled with injuries.

Mitchell has been slowed for two months with a left knee bone bruise, but the All-Star guard moved well and looked much more like himself as Cleveland’s only viable offensive threat for more than two quarters.

Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points in his playoff debut, but had nine turnovers. The Magic shot just 33% from the field — some of it attributed to bad shooting, some of it because of Cleveland’s defense.

Game 2 is Monday at raucous Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where fans didn’t have much to cheer last spring.

Like the Cavs a year ago, the Magic lack playoff experience and it showed.

Orlando’s offense was unorganized and Banchero too often tried to force things. He went 9 of 17 from the floor in 41 minutes.

The Cavs have waited all season for a chance at redemption following last season’s first-round flameout.

And while they were in control for most of the game, they had just seven field goals over an 18-minute stretch and only led 60-56 when Banchero converted a three-point play with 4:24 left in the third.

Mitchell settled things down with back-to-back buckets and Cleveland closed the third with a 13-2 run that sent the Cavs into the fourth leading by 15.

The Magic twice cut a 20-point deficit to nine in the fourth, but the Cavs responded and Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 4:44 left ended any thought of an Orlando comeback.

Tempers flared between the teams in the second quarter, leading to some jawing, finger-pointing and two technical fouls being called.

Orlando’s Moritz Wagner pushed an off-balance Mobley as he was falling out of bounds on the baseline and his clapping annoyed Cleveland’s Isaac Okoro, who shoved Wagner and drew a technical.

Moments later, Magic guard Markelle Fultz was assessed a flagrant-1 for his foul on Georges Niang, who was driving to the basket. Niang didn’t like it, walked toward Fultz and was slapped with a T for taunting as Cleveland’s crowd roared.

As if the Cavs needed any reminders, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played over the arena’s sound system as Fultz’s foul was reviewed.

The Cavs were determined to land the first punch and they did so from long range.

Cleveland made its first five 3-pointers, including a desperation one from the top of the key by Mitchell, who beat the 24-second shot clock to help the Cavs open a 12-point lead.

TWO OF A KIND

While the Magic and Cavs closely mirror each other, so do their coaches.

Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley and J.B. Bickerstaff are close friends, who talk often and even vacationed together with their families at the All-Star break.

While they relaxed on the beach in Turks and Caicos, Bickerstaff joked before Game 1 that he took mental notes of the Magic.

“I was doing the same,” cracked Mosley. “So it’s all good.”

UP NEXT

After Monday’s matchup, the series shifts to Orlando for Game 3 on Thursday.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to NBC4 WCMH-TV.