Takeaways from Cleveland Cavaliers Game 7 redemption against Orlando Magic

With a Game 7 comeback victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers advance in the playoffs without LeBron James for the first time since 1993.
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Seven
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Seven / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Cavs Magic Game 7 2024 Score. 106. 156. Final. 94. 38

The Cleveland Cavaliers without Jarrett Allen (rib injury) were in free fall in the first half of Game 7 against the Orlando Magic. Still, they found themselves in the third quarter, powering up to a victory that will be cherished in Wine and Gold lore - when Donovan Mitchell and Co. saved the day. The match featured five lead changes and six ties.

In the first quarter, the Cavaliers were locked up to five field goals and five turnovers and also conceded 13 straight points during a stretch to the Orlando Magic. Then, the Cavs were down 18 points past the midway mark of the second quarter. A late spurt by Mitchell, Sam Merrill and Caris LeVert broke a chunk off the deficit to 10 points by intermission.

Subsequently, the Cavaliers showed their true character the rest of the way, holding the visitors to 41 points on 25.6 percent shooting to protect their home court.

At the postgame presser, Mitchell said it was a great win because the team learned a lot about itself, but he thinks the group still can be better.

When asked if it was the most gratifying win of his career, coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, “This is definitely a special moment for this group in particular who's been through so much this year… It’s more about the group than it is me. We are most proud of that, but we are not done. We got a way to go.”

Let’s examine the second-half takeaways and a few lingering concerns.

Donovan Mitchell is unstoppable

Following a poor first-half shooting from the field (three-of-13), Mitchell erupted in the second half for 24 points on 57.1 percent accuracy and two assists. He ended the night with 39 points, nine rebounds and five assists after his Game 6 50-point performance.

Coming out of the break, Mitchell ripped through the Magic’s transition defense for a layup, splashed a top-of-the-key triple over Wendell Carter Jr. in drop coverage and burst into the lane for a shot at the cup facing Paolo Banchero before his first miss. Then, Spida scored four more times at close range.

Mitchell logged one-of-five baskets in the fourth quarter but attacked the hoop, drawing illegal contact from Carter and Cole Anthony in crunch time (last five minutes), making four freebies.

Max Strus’ big third quarter

Strus helped dig the Cavaliers out of the ditch and take the lead in the third frame with 11 points, making four of five baskets, including three trays. He capitalized on outside looks, burning drop coverage, firing behind Mobley’s flare screen and canning a 3-pointer in Moritz Wagner’s face on a tight switch on the right wing.

Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro’s defense

Aside from securing five defensive rebounds, Mobley was disruptive on defense and sent away Franz Wagner’s shot on a left-side drive before garbage time. Mobley's late-game defense has anchored Cleveland's presence down the stretch, including his game-winning block on F. Wagner in Game 5.

Additionally, Mobley caused Banchero to miss twice at close range when he tagged his drive as a help defender. Without Jarrett Allen in the game, Mobley was tasked with covering Orlando's stars as a primary and help defender.

Okoro bothered Banchero on a close-out to the wing, forcing him to pick up his dribble on the baseline for an unsuccessful fallaway jumper. He also contested cleanly on Banchero’s turnaround shot in the lane. He created a jump ball when switched onto Markelle Fultz and then tipped the ball to Strus, adding a steal to his ledger.

Mobley didn’t provide much on the attack aside from four offensive rebounds and working as an elite lineman. He had eight screen assists, generating 20 screen assist points. He scored 11 points on five-of-eight shooting and one-of-two free throws.

Remaining concerns for the Cavaliers

The Cavaliers gave up 18 offensive rebounds that turned into 24 second-chance points through four quarters. In the series' first two games, the Cavs were dominant on the boards, winning both nights' rebounding battles. Since then, their intensity and consistency in rebounding have wavered.

Mobley finished Game 7 with more turnovers (6) than field goals made (5) and, at some moments, stopped looking at the basket because he lost his confidence taking two shots of sync. The Cavaliers will need Mobley to provide confidently from the floor on offense to reach their ceiling. Three field goal attempts and one trip to the line in the second half of a close-out game before garbage time is insufficient and indicative of someone playing scared. His grade on offense is a fat F for Game 7.

Following their comeback win, the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to Boston for Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics in TD Garden on Tuesday, May 7.