Offseason acquisition Donovan Mitchell paid immediate dividends in his season debut, but the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to take a victory to the bank in their season opener.
The Cavaliers will look for more of the same from Mitchell and a better result for the team on Saturday when they visit two-time All-Star Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls.
Mitchell scored 18 of his 31 points in the second half and added nine assists in Cleveland’s 108-105 setback to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
“He’s an elite basketball player,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Mitchell, who was acquired from the Utah Jazz over the summer. “There are not many guys in this league that are better than Donovan and capable of doing the things that he can do.
“He puts so much pressure on the defense. He has the ability to make all the passes. He’s hard to deal with and he makes defenses have to make tough decisions over and over again.”
Fellow All-Star Darius Garland sustained a lacerated left eyelid following a collision with Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. in the first quarter. Garland failed to return to the game and did not accompany the team to Chicago as he deals with swelling and discomfort.
Garland averaged a robust 21.7 points and 8.6 assists last season. He signed a five-year, $194.3 million contract extension in July.
“We all need to get used to it,” teammate Caris LeVert said of Garland’s absence, per Cleveland.com. “I’ve been in the league a while now and it’s a long season. Just have to figure each other out, figure out the process. We have to focus on our habits and what we can control. For me, it’s focusing on what I can do defensively, taking my shots when they come and staying aggressive.”
LaVine is set to make his season debut on Saturday after sitting out the Bulls’ first two games due to knee injury management. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May after playing through soreness late last season.
“He should play (Saturday),” Chicago head coach Billy Donovan told reporters prior to his team’s 102-100 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday. “After the last game against Miami (on Wednesday), sitting down, talking, looking at the schedule, felt like it was good to give him another game here. He’ll be available (Saturday) against Cleveland provided everything else goes well, which it should.”
LaVine averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 67 games last season. He shot 47.6 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from 3-point range while playing in the final season of a four-year, $78 million deal.
LaVine signed a five-year, $215 million extension in July in his first foray into free agency.
DeMar DeRozan followed up his 37-point outburst in the Bulls’ 116-108 victory over the Heat with 32 points on Friday. DeRozan, however, misfired on a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
DeRozan averaged 25 points in three meetings with Cleveland in 2021-22. Chicago won three of the four games in the series last season.
Bulls center Nikola Vucevic added 24 points and eight rebounds against the Wizards.
–Field Level Media