Cavaliers road trip reveals endgame flaws and Donovan Mitchell wants responsibility to fix it


SAN FRANCISCO—The Cleveland Cavaliers closed their five-game road trip much like they closed the last three games – in disappointing fashion.

After a strong defensive effort through the first three quarters, never giving up more than 26 points in a quarter to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriorsthe Cavs gave up 32 points in the final frame, with Steph Curry scoring 15 of his 40 points in fourth. The Cavs lost to the Warriors 106-101 on Friday to extend their losing streak to three games, ending their five-game road trip. The Cavs currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with an 8-4 record.

While the Cavs have struggled with slow starts in recent games, a common denominator in two of their three losses on this trip was that the Cavs struggled to close games. In the final minutes, Cleveland struggled to move the ball well and took hard hits. They had defensive breakdowns. In the final four minutes Friday night, the Cavs scored only on free throws.

“To the naked eye, when you think about the execution at the end of the game, we have the ball and have to do all these different things and score, but that’s not the case,” Donovan Mitchell said. “It puts the guys in the right places. We didn’t have Evan (Mobley) late. He had 20 points and was dominating low. So get into painting and find a way to create.

“And on top of that, no defensive return, and I didn’t initiate the last pick-and-roll with Steph. He hits the 3 for the game. We were supposed to change that. I missed a cover. That’s five points in a game that we’re losing by six. That’s why I put it on myself.


Donovan Mitchell Unplugged: On the Cavs’ early success, leaving Jazz and Gobert, and how close he came to joining the Knicks

In their three defeats on the road to Mowers, kings and Warriors, the Cavs were outscored 42-16 in the final three minutes of those games. Although they started their loss to the Kings with a slow start, their late game execution helped the end result.

Offensively, the Cavs need to improve their understanding of clutch-time matchups, noting who has a favorable matchup and attacking what works. But they also had a few defensive lapses with missed assignments. defensively, Caris The Green described as a need for recognition.

Mitchell took much of the responsibility for late game execution. In his final eight minutes in the fourth quarter, Mitchell shot 2 of 6 from the field and 1 of 4 of 3 to score 10 points, most of which came from the free throw line. He finished the night with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Mitchell also described not going back on defense and switching as “inexcusable.”

After the game, Mitchell continued to focus and replay those two possessions where he thinks he gave up five points to Curry.

“A lot of that comes back to me,” Mitchell said. “For three games, it’s not even about scoring; it’s about getting good shots and executing. I take a lot of responsibility for that, especially tonight. I missed a tough shot and didn’t come back on defense, so he gets a layup. Then took a terrible hit and put us in a bad position. It’s on me. I have to take this. That’s why I’m here. It’s my role. It’s my job. I did not deliver tonight and a few nights before. I will be better. If there’s any responsibility in late game execution and player setup, then it’s on me.

The Cavs are looking for a solution to their late game difficulties. But the way to do that is to experience those situations and learn. Mitchell thinks these are elements of the game that can be fixed. They can watch the movie of these games, talk about them and combine the experience of the game to take a step forward.

Earlier this season they showed they could do it with their two overtime wins over Bostontheir extensions prevail Washingtonand even against New York and Orlando. But Mitchell said it was about building consistency to be able to close out games every night. Coach JB Bickerstaff agreed.

“Those are the experiences we need to have,” Bickerstaff said. “We have to go through it…it’s the world championships, and they’re the world champions for a reason. So it’s a great opportunity for us to learn and try to understand, but it’s going to take us time. We have to find the right pieces in the right places, against the right covers, but I thought the guys were in competition. They gave it to us tonight and gave us an opportunity.

But their struggle to close games wasn’t the only factor on Friday night.

There were a series of calls – or no calls – for both teams down the stretch which affected the outcome of the game. The Warriors had a total of 27 personal fouls called, while the Cavs had 17. With 35 seconds left in the game, Klay Thompson put a screen on isaac okoro to open Steph Curry for a 3, which gave the Warriors a 103-99 lead over the Cavs. However, as Thompson put the screen down, he kept moving and punched Okoro, knocking Okoro to the ground. It looked like an illegal screen, but no foul was called.

Bickerstaff was unhappy with the no-call after the game.

“There were some questionable plays that happened down the stretch,” Bickerstaff said. “As Isaac Okoro was clearly hit by Klay Thompson on a moving screen which gives up a 3-point play. There is no way to defend that. You’ve got one of the best players on the planet with the ball in your hands, and clearly if you’re allowed to set up mobile screens like that, he’s going to have an advantage.

“And it happens over and over again. And I haven’t figured out yet what we can do and how we can fix it, but something has to be done.

As the Cavs return to Cleveland, this five-game road trip has provided a number of lessons. They saw the need to make efforts from the start to avoid slow starts. They are focused. They gained valuable experience closing matches against various teams. They must also continue to feel comfortable in late game situations.

They continue to be a work in progress, which Bickerstaff reiterated from the start.

“You just have to be better late,” Mitchell said. “Tonight was positive. I think we played well for 48 minutes. I think we put together a good 46 minutes tonight, and you play against a team where you make a mistake, and they’re going to burn you We can maybe get away with some things against other teams, but you’re playing against the defending champions and guys who’ve been together for 10-12 years, you have to be on point We weren’t tonight.

But there is teeth with these three defeats. These are games the Cavs could have won but, because of late-game execution, they didn’t. It will stay with them.

“At the end of the day, it’s three losses, and if we had won three, I would have said the same thing,” Mitchell said. “Just go home and take care of business. I can’t let this continue into our next game. The most important thing as a group is to hold your head high and not fall too low. Too early for that. These losses sting. They hurt. But understand that these are fixable things, small details and we will be fine.

(Photo by Donovan Mitchell and Steph Curry: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)


Comments are closed.