The Cleveland Cavaliers’ return to the NBA playoffs after a three-year absence and their first without LeBron James since 1998 began with disappointment. The Cavs fell 101-97 to the New York Knicks in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at Rocket Mortgage Field House.
Despite All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell’s game-high 38 points and point guard Darius Garland’s 17 points for Cleveland, the Knicks bench players outscored their Cavs counterparts 37-14. However, Mitchell is optimistic and said, “We will respond. There’s no room to sit here and feel sorry or feel upset and get down. It’s one game.”
Donovan Mitchell is up to 38 points and counting in his first playoff game as a Cav 🔥 pic.twitter.com/1MPAK0Xci9
— ESPN (@espn) April 16, 2023
Garland also acknowledged the high and low moments of the playoffs, saying, “It’s going to be a roller coaster, but you just have to keep your [focus].” However, fans take a dish at Donovan Mitchell after a photo of him in a similar pose as LeBron James following a playoff game against the Knicks circulates on social media.
The Cavs entered the playoffs with the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed and home-court advantage against the fifth-seeded Knicks. Still, the Knicks, who had a 3-1 advantage in their regular season games against Cleveland, kept control in Game 1. Knicks power forward Julius Randle, who missed the final five games of the regular season with a sprained left ankle, returned to action and had 19 points, including a crucial offensive rebound with six seconds left to play.
Y’all always have to have Lebron in every post huh?
— Louie (@LouieBandanaa) April 16, 2023
Guard Quentin Grimes made two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to virtually seal the Knicks’ win. “You can’t say enough about the monster rebound Julius made at the end,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That rebound was huge. Huge.”
Why is Bron in a post about Donovan scoring 38😂
Espn had to spend the time to edit him in😂
— Blake Grove (@BlakeAGrove) April 16, 2023
Despite the loss, Cavs starting small forward Isaac Okoro played after missing the final six games of the regular season with a sore left knee. Okoro, known for his defense, finished with six points but struggled with his long-range shooting.
Nah, don’t disrespect Bron like that!!!😂😂😂
— Ivan Kamali (@Ivan_Kamali) April 16, 2023
The Cavs rallied to tie the score 54-54 when Mitchell made a 3-pointer with 8:16 left in the third quarter, but they fell behind 78-70 entering the fourth quarter. They led 93-92 when center Jarrett Allen made a putback with 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, swingman Josh Hart answered by making a 3-pointer with 1:49 left, and the Knicks never trailed again.
Despite the loss, the Cavs still have plenty of games to make a comeback, and Mitchell’s words resonate with their fighting spirit. “There’s no room to sit here and feel sorry or feel upset and get down. It’s one game. We will respond.”
The Contrasting Playoff Debuts of LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland Cavaliers History
In his playoff debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell set a new franchise record with 38 points in Game 1 against the New York Knicks. He also became the first player to score 30 or more points in 20 of his first 40 playoff games since Allen Iverson.
Despite Mitchell’s impressive performance, the Cavaliers suffered a 101-97 loss, with the rookie Evan Mobley struggling to score just eight points on 4-for-13 shooting, and the bench producing only 14 points.
Mitchell will need more support from his teammates if Cleveland hopes to avoid falling deeper into a hole in the series. Interestingly, LeBron James, who had two stints with the Cavs, did not achieve this record during his time with the team. The Cavs will try to tie the series in Game 2 before heading to New York for Games 3 and 4.