Game Night Observations: Clinching Home Court, Another Mitchell Outburst, And Levert Off The Bench

Game Night Observations: Clinching home court, another Mitchell outburst, and LeVert off the bench

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 Danny Cunningham covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for 850 ESPN Cleveland and You can follow him on Twitter at @RealDCunningham.


The Cleveland Cavaliers won their 50th game of the season on Tuesday night with a 117-113 victory over the Orlando Magic.


This win means that when the Cavs begin the first round of the playoffs next weekend, Game 1 will take place at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. If that same series goes the distance, Game 7 will take place in Cleveland as well. That’s a really big deal for a team that’s going through its first playoff run as a group.


In all likelihood, the Cavs are going to be playing the New York Knicks in the first round. Madison Square Garden will unquestionably be a difficult place to play, just as Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse will be for the Knicks. Taking care of this with two games remaining in the season is a big deal.


Winning 50 games is also a big deal for the Cavs. This is the 53rd season the team has been in existence and just the 12th season they’ve won 50 or more games. Of those 12 instances, LeBron James has been the engine for eight of them. Essentially, this is the fourth time in 42 seasons without James on the roster that the Cavs have reached this mark.


That fact puts into perspective just how special this season has been for the Cavaliers. There are bigger goals that this franchise has for when the playoffs arrive, but reaching 50 wins is certainly an accomplishment that’s worth celebrating.


After Tuesday night, the Cavs know that they will finish in fourth place of the Eastern Conference. They cannot catch the Philadelphia 76ers in the standings and cannot be caught by the Knicks.


This leads to a question of how the final two games of the regular season will be handled. The Cavs could choose to rest some of the starters against Orlando on Thursday and Charlotte at home on Sunday. The only concern with this would be that if that’s the route the Cavs take, the regulars for Cleveland would go from April 4 until either April 15 or 16 without playing in a real basketball game. That doesn’t feel like the most likely scenario for Cleveland.


What may make sense is to either keep playing as is, or give some of the regulars Thursday night in Orlando off but playing things normal on Sunday in the finale against the Hornets. That way the Cavs would have roughly a week between games played.


Donovan Mitchell, superstar


Once again, Donovan Mitchell was incredible for the Cavs. He finished with 43 points, five rebounds and four assists in the win. It was the fourth straight game in which Mitchell scored 40 or more points, something no one has ever done in Cavs history.


Mitchell is playing his best basketball of the season as the playoffs near. That’s a terrific sign for any hopes of the Cavs moving beyond the first round. He mentioned after the team’s win over the Pacers on Sunday night that he’s trying to test himself in different situations. He keeps passing those tests.


Mitchell looks ready for his first postseason with the Cavs. He also looks like a guy that will be just the fifth member of the Cavs to ever be named to an All-NBA team. Should Mitchell earn that selection at the end of the season it would mark the first time in his career he’s been awarded the honor.


Finishing on one of the All-NBA teams is just a formality for Mitchell at this point. It’s hard to imagine him not being named one of the six best guards in the NBA for this season with how good he’s been. The question worth pondering is where exactly does he end up?


Finishing on the first team is possible. Right now, Mitchell’s competition for that spot is mostly Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. There are a number of guards across the NBA that have had great seasons. Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander even have a better raw statistical profile than Mitchell does. The difference there is that their respective teams are below .500 and fighting with each other for who wants the final spot in the Western Conference Play-In less.


We’ll do a deeper dive on his complete case in the coming days, but four consecutive 40-point games is a strong reminder of just how good he’s been all season long.


LeVert to the rescue


The biggest problem with the Cavs heading into the playoffs is either the health of Isaac Okoro or the production coming off of the bench.


Caris LeVert has been a real bright spot for the Cavs for most of the season. He certainly hasn’t been great all the time – his month of February was pretty bad – but he’s playing some of his best basketball at the right time. Tuesday night he had 19 points in 35 minutes off the bench, making five of his six 3-point attempts.


Since the calendar flipped to March, LeVert has made 48.8 percent of his 3-pointers while taking over five of them per game. If that keeps up, the Cavs are a much more dangerous team in the postseason, especially when considering how good he’s been on the defensive end of the floor for most of the season. With Okoro’s status in question, the importance of LeVert playing well in the postseason skyrockets. He’s a guy that can make or break an entire series for the Cavs on both ends of the floor.