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Cavaliers' strong play without Donovan Mitchell should scare East teams

Cavaliers' strong play without Donovan Mitchell should scare East teams

The Cleveland Cavaliers are aiming to make noise in the NBA playoffs behind superstar Donovan Mitchell, but they have also impressed without him in the lineup.

Mitchell is dealing with a knee injury, which has caused him to miss Cleveland’s last six games. In this span, the team has won three games against the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Taking down the Celtics and Timberwolves is no small task, as both sit near the top of their respective conference. Due to these wins, the Cavaliers are currently the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference (and just a half game back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 2 seed).

Friday’s overtime victory against Minnesota came thanks to tremendous outings from guard Darius Garland and center Jarrett Allen. Garland tallied 34 points and 8 assists on 13-of-26 shooting, while Allen recorded 33 points, 18 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 47.4% shooting. It’s important to note that the Cavs were also missing key contributors Max Strus and Evan Mobley in this matchup. This game further pushes the agenda that the Cavaliers’ greatest weakness is health.

Meanwhile, the win over Boston stemmed from a miraculous fourth quarter from forward Dean Wade. The 27-year-old exploded in the final 12 minutes, scoring 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting to push the Cavs to a one-point victory. Social media even began comparing the Cavs forward to Miami Heat legend and Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade through the nickname ‘D-Wade.’ It’s becoming crystal clear that the organization has the depth to compete regardless of the adversity its faced.

There’s no doubt that Mitchell is the leader of the team, but Cleveland’s starting lineup as a whole can contend regardless. The five-time All-Star is averaging 28 points, 6.2 assists (career-high) and 5.4 rebounds (career-high) on 47.2% shooting in 47 appearances.

Mitchell is accustomed to his role as a No. 1 option from his time on the Utah Jazz alongside former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. The Jazz would often find themselves as a prominent seed when the postseason came around but lacked the depth and talent to reach the NBA Finals.

The Celtics, Bucks and New York Knicks highlight the East's championship contenders, and Cleveland has defeated all three teams this season. In a seven-game series against a top contender, Mitchell will be heavily relied on but he'll also have plenty of help thanks to the Cavs' depth.

In Cleveland, Mitchell finds himself in a situation where he can rely on his teammates to uphold a certain standard when he is struggling or unable to perform.

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