The Cleveland Cavaliers have been without All-Star guard and leading scorer Donovan Mitchell for the past three games and the Eastern Conference contenders went 1-2 without him. However, Mitchell is expected back in the lineup tonight when Cleveland visits the struggling New York Knicks, who are 3-point home underdogs on the NBA odds.
Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell To Return From Injury vs. Knicks
Mitchell has been dealing with a strained left groin but was a full participant in Monday’s practice, so all signs indicate him being able to play. Of course, Mitchell was traded this summer from the Utah Jazz and he hasn’t missed a beat with his new club as he ranks fifth in the NBA in three-pointers made (149), shooting a career-high .395 from deep % (149-377) and is one of four NBA players with at least 140 three-pointers made on .390 percent (Buddy Hield, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson).
Mitchell’s scoring average of 28.4 points per game ranks 9th in the NBA and 5th in the Eastern Conference (Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant). That’s a career-high average as his is overall field-goal percentage (.484), three-point percentage, free-throw percentage (.869) and minutes per game (36.1).
His return would also mean a return to the bench for Caris LeVert, who has been playing very well as a starter. In Saturday’s 114-102 win over Milwaukee, LeVert had 13 points and seven assists. He has scored 10+ points in 11 of his last 13 games since Dec. 29. He is also shooting 12-21 (.571) from beyond the arc over his last three appearances.
Mitchell’s fellow All-Star guard Darius Garland finished with his 12th double-double of the season on Saturday with 21 points on 9-16 (.562) shooting from the field and 10 assists. Garland has recorded a double-double in four of his last six games and is averaging 26.5 points and 11.0 assists in that span. He is 1 of 2 players in the NBA this season averaging 20.0+ PPG, 8.0+ APG and shooting .390+ 3FG% (Tyrese Haliburton) and ranks 5th in the NBA in assists per game (8.1 APG).
Look for perhaps a lower-scoring game tonight even with Mitchell back. Cleveland is 2nd in the NBA in defensive rating (109.7) and is also allowing the fewest points in the NBA this season (107.3 PPG). The Cavs have held their opponents under 100 points in an NBA-best 14 games and are 13-1 when doing so.
This is the third of four regular-season matchups between the teams. The Cavaliers are 12-3 in their last 15 visits to Madison Square Garden since December of 2014 and have won four of their last five games overall against the Knicks. The teams last played on Dec. 21 also in New York and the Knicks won 92-81. Jalen Brunson scored 23 points, Julius Randle scored 18 points and RJ Barrett added 15 as New York held the Cavaliers to a season-low point total and field goal percentage of 34.9%. Mitchell led Cleveland with 23 points and Darius Garland had 17. All-Star center Jarrett Allen was out.
New York enters on a four-game losing streak following a 125-116 loss in Toronto on Sunday as the Raptors scored 26 points off 17 New York turnovers. Barrett scored 30 points and Randle had 23 points and 19 rebounds in the loss. New York overcame a 17-point deficit to take the lead late in the third quarter. The game was tied to begin the fourth before the Raptors pulled away with an 11-0 run that saw Toronto score seven points at the free throw line.
Brunson scored 21 points and Obi Toppin had 14, but the short-handed Knicks were without guard Immanuel Quickley (left knee) and center Mitchell Robinson, who missed his second game after surgery to repair a fractured right thumb.
Robinson won’t play here and Quickley is questionable. The 6-foot-3 Quickley is having a strong season, averaging career-highs of 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 27.4 minutes. Quickley has the top defensive rating (105.9) on the Knicks and his NET rating of plus-6.2 is second on the team. Only Robinson, out for the next month with a fractured right thumb, is better at 8.0. Quickley is durable. He appeared in 78 games last year.
The Cavaliers shoot the 11th-most shots at the rim (22.8%) and their percentage is sixth-best (68.8%). Without the rim presence of Robinson for the Knicks, the Cavaliers should have little issue getting to their spots and exploiting New York’s new weakness.