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Donovan Mitchell sounds as advertised, Cavs need hard work – Doodles of Terry Pluto

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – As I watch the Cavs open the season with a 108-105 loss at Toronto, I have doodles in my notebook:

1. Darius Garland’s eye injury showed Donovan Mitchell’s instant value. Garland only played 13 minutes. After that, Mitchell managed the team. As coach JB Bickerstaff said at the post-match press conference: “(Mitchell) has carried teams on his back before. This is not new… he is an elite basketball player.”

2. After Garland came out, I was thinking about what the Cavs would look like without Mitchell. Collin Sexton could be in the backcourt with Caris LeVert. It’s not like a blow to Sexton. Now as part of the Mitchell deal with Utah, Sexton scored 20 points in 21 minutes, leaving the bench for the Jazz, which they beat Denver 123-102 on Wednesday. This is his best role, instant attack.

3. Mitchell is a total guard. Former Cavs coach Mike Fratello compared Mitchell to former Detroit star Joe Dumars when talking about the deal. I see some Dumars in Mitchell. Physically strong, it’s hard to get off balance on the way to the basket. He can handle the ball from the spot or play the classic shooting guard.

4. Mitchell had 31 points (21 on 12 on shots) with nine assists and just three turnovers in 35 minutes. It was 8/8 on 3-pointers. Mitchell is a better long-range shooter than this, but not the second time Mark Price has come across the line. He’s a scorer, rimming and shooting mid-range. But as Bickerstaff said, “He can make any pass.”

5. Mitchell is even more important if Garland has been out for a while. Someone needs to lead the team. Senior reserve Raul Neto played just six goalless minutes and didn’t look very comfortable at that point. We’ll see how that develops, because if Garland misses games, he’ll be needed.

6. The Cavs also signed Ricky Rubio, but the quarterback is still recovering from ACL surgery. Won’t be returning in the near future. So right now, it’s Mitchell’s backcourt show.

7. During the TV broadcast, Austin Carr thought about how Toronto put up aggressive physical defense and the authorities allowed it to happen. My thought: It was a hard, clean, pressure defense. This wasn’t the Detroit Piston Bad Boys of the 1980s. Cleveland needs to take care of this.

After Game 8. Bickerstaff was unhappy because the Cavs did not handle the situation well. He talked about how Toronto’s goal was to get turnovers and offensive rebounds. The Cavs were leading 41-38 on the rebound. Toronto had 18 second chances and the Cavs had four. Despite a clear height advantage, they were beaten on boards.

9. All-Star center Jarrett Allen was aggressive. He had 13 points, 10 rebounds and a double block shot. It was a strange night for Evan Mobley. He only had 6 rebounds in 36 minutes. He scored 14 points in 5 of 9 shots. It wasn’t bad, but the game seemed to have issues with its flow. They need Mobley to stand out on the boards and on the defensive side. Plus/minus is sometimes deceptive. However, with Mobley on the field, the Cavs were trailing 14 points.

10. Before his injury, Garland was having a rough night. It was 2 of 8 shots on five turnovers, compared to just three assists in 13 minutes. Blending Garland and Mitchell will take time.

11. With the arrival of Garland, Caris Levert became more important. He started with the small forward, but will likely go to the backcourt with Mitchell. He scored 10 points (2/7 field goal, 3 points on both courts). He had a good ground game with seven assists, five rebounds and a turnover in 35 minutes and helped the defense.

12. Isaac Okoro’s line: 12 minutes, four fouls, zero rebounds, zero assists, zero steals. He took one shot and missed. More of a discouraging opener than a man to be needed. The good news was Kevin Love, who had 8 points and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes. Love looks ready to continue the excellent play he showed last season by coming out of the bench.


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