Cavs clinch first playoff spot since 2018


Courtesy of John Raoux/Associated Press

Donovan Mitchell scored 43 points in the Cavs’ last game against Orlando Magic, scoring over 40 in their last four.

Tanishka Mhaskar, Staff Writer

The Cleveland Cavaliers are on a roll. They’ve won seven of their last ten games, and clinched a playoff berth and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They’ve also notched their first 50-win season since LeBron James’ departure. Star guard Donovan Mitchell is playing the best ball of his career, recording four consecutive 40-point games. His stats from the Cavs’ last four games speak for themselves. Versus the Hawks, Mitchell recorded 44 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Versus the Knicks, he had 42 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Against the Pacers, it was 40 points, 1 assist and 6 rebounds. And finally, against Orlando Magic, Mitchell racked up 43 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds.

The big story is not the Cavs winning games—they’ve been doing that all year. For the first time since James left, Cleveland will be favored in a playoff series. Last year, they took a step forward, making the play-in before losing to the Atlanta Hawks. This year, they’re likely to be favored in the first round.

The trade that brought Mitchell to Cleveland is one of the key reasons for the Cavs’ surge from a good team to one of the best in the Eastern Conference. Mitchell has not only elevated their offense but also made things easier on their defense. 

It’s not just Mitchell’s brilliance that has put the Cavs in this position. Cleveland has built a young, elite core surrounding Mitchell with center Jarrett Allen, All-Star guard Darius Garland, forward Isaac Okoro and former 2022 Rookie of the Year “snub” forward Evan Mobley. The NBA is a fluid league, with superstars switching teams almost on whims. There was initial concern that trading for Mitchell would lead to increased malcontent with Garland, but instead, Garland has embraced his new teammate.

“It’s really important having a guy his caliber come in and try to help this team get over the hump, make the next push,”Garland said. “It means a lot to all of us. It’s super cool just to have another guy like him, to be honest with you. So I take pride in it, just trying to make him feel comfortable coming to a new situation like this, something totally different than Utah.”

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff echoed praise for Garland, saying “He could have continued through the year to feel some kind of way about Donovan’s shots, Donovan’s attention, Donovan’s successes. But he never once had any concern, any issue with that. All he’s ever done is support, and I think that speaks to who he is as a person and as a teammate.”

The camaraderie in the Cavs locker room has obviously translated to their play on the court. With two games left, the Cavs have an outside chance of becoming the three seed, as the Philadelphia 76ers are two games ahead. No matter what happens in the last two games and into the playoffs, at least fans can rest assured knowing that the team has had their best run in years, and that they have a solid lineup for their next. And, of course, they’ll have fun watching the Cavs play, too.