With their season on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers remain motivated to keep fighting and allow that playoff fire still burning – dreaming to repeat the franchise’ unthinkable, marvelous feat en route to their maiden title in 2016.
For Donovan Mitchell, his poise and confidence are still up there that they can be able to force an extension and to recover themselves on the brink of elimination against the New York Knicks.
“It’s not over. … We’re playing for our season,” Mitchell said, per Associated Press’ Tom Withers. “Otherwise we’ll be having the end-of-the-year press conference right here.”
Mitchell and the Cavs were intimidated by the blinding lights and the raucous reception of the Madison Square Garden in the last two games of their first-round series against the Knicks. As a result, they now find themselves on the cusp of a season downfall, facing a 3-1 edge against a New York team that imposed collective effort and defensive tactics behind the guidance of Tom Thibodeau.
Heading to Game 5, the Knicks rode the travel bus and occupied the driver’s seat, looking to hammer the finisher against the Cavaliers on Wednesday night within the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and finally advance to the postseason’s second round for the first time in 10 years.
“Doesn’t matter how,” Mitchell said. “If it’s ugly. If it’s pretty, If it’s by one. If it’s by 40. Gotta win the game, by any means necessary.”
Mitchell was nowhere to be found in Games 3 and 4 against the Knicks in New York. In what could have been a fulfillment of his dream that he finally got a chance to dazzle in front of the Garden, it turned out to be a nightmare for the All-Star guard. He just averaged 16.5 points on 14-of-37 shooting in the previous two games of Cleveland which all resulted in back-to-back defeats.
He understands the blame and the major burden of his inconsistencies and underperformances, and the upcoming Game 5 can only be that opportunity to submit an astounding response.
“They always tell me not to do that,” he said. “But it’s who I am. I’m a leader. These guys have helped support me, and I’ve helped support them. So it’s a no brainer for me to own that. I got to be there at that moment, and I wasn’t.
“But I can’t sit here for the past two days and say, ‘ Oh, man I wasn’t there.’ I got to find a way to be there.”
With less than 24 hours left to keep their campaign alive, Mitchell approaches the pivotal Game 5 as it is – not getting too far ahead while taking their chances one possession at a time.
In the 76-year history of the NBA, only 13 of 271 teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series. For Mitchell, they only need to take care of their business at home and see another reason to survive.
“For us, it’s Game 5,” Mitchell said. “I’m not worried about anything after that. It’s Game 5, tomorrow at 7 o’clock and just be ready.”