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Sparking Victory: Donovan Mitchell ignites Cleveland’s win over Pelicans


Donovan Mitchell changed everything for the Cavs.

Heading into their road trip kickoff against the New Orleans Pelicans, it was no secret how much the Cleveland Cavaliers missed Donovan Mitchell. But when Mitchell was cleared to play Wednesday in New Orleans after missing the previous seven games due to a nagging left knee bone bruise, was cleared to play against the Pelicans on Wednesday, it fanned a spark the Cavs quickly turned into a flame.

Donovan Mitchell’s return changes everything for Cavs

Cavs' Donovan Mitchell shooting the ball while looking serious

Even without Evan Mobley (ankle) and Max Strus (knee), Cleveland looked whole on Wednesday due to Mitchell’s return. His presence had a trickle-down effect on offense for the Cavs, making life easier for all his teammates, but Darius Garland in particular. No longer the focus of the opposing defense with Mitchell by his side, Garland popped off for 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 6-of-10 from deep to go with 11 assists and six rebounds in 34 rock-solid minutes.

Besides Garland, Cleveland big man Jarrett Allen added 17 points and 10 boards. Starting in place of Mobley once again, Georges Niang tallied 16 points. Sharpshooter Sam Merrill snapped out of his funk, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, all from long range, and a career-best nine assists. Backup big Damian Jones scored a season-high 14 points, providing productive minutes off the bench, a welcome sign from a topsy-turvy start to the year.

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There was also a ton of production on the perimeter for the Cavs. Five different players made at least one triple, while 10 total scored for Cleveland. Seven of the 10 had at least one assist, as the Cavs finished with a season-high 38 helpers. Caris LeVert had nine of those dimes off the bench. So did Merrill, who again had a career-best passing night for a guy who has been cooler off the bench of late.

Mitchell, meanwhile, only had 14 points, his third-lowest scoring night of the season, in limited minutes. Still shaking off a bit of rust and finding comfort with his bothersome knee, Mitchell went just 5-of-16 from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and committed two turnovers. But this 116-95 win over the Pelicans wasn’t set by the tone Mitchell set statistically. Instead, the shot in the arm he gave the team and his on-court leadership allowed the Cavs to cruise to victory.

When Mitchell plays, Cleveland is 33-15 versus going 9-9 without him on the floor. Having Mitchell available allows the Cavs to go from average to elite with relative ease, with New Orleans as their latest victim. It’s been a recipe for success all season long , and with Mitchell now back on the floor, it’s the perfect time for Cleveland to start ramping things up before the playoffs.

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About the Author

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland, including the Cavs, right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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