Down 21 points with just under two minutes to play in the first half, their team struggling and without two of its starters, Cavalier fans had no idea of the history they were about to witness in the second stanza.
Donovan Mitchell provided that historic performance – posting an offensive effort for the ages, and the greatest in Cavaliers franchise history, erupting for 71 points – going off for 24 points in the third quarter, 18 in the fourth and 13 more in the overtime session, where Cleveland improved to 6-0 on the season after stunning the Bulls, 145-134, on Monday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Mitchell, who’d failed to reach the 20-point mark in three of his past four games, was solid in the first half – leading Cleveland with 16 points at the break. Despite the three-time All-Star finding his rhythm, the Cavs were still down 18 points at intermission.
Things began to turn around in the third quarter, however. Mitchell and Cedi Osman caught fire and the Cavs would proceed to shoot 57 percent and score 44 points in the period.
In the fourth, the Cavaliers continued to chip away – climbing all the way back to tie the affair at 123-apiece with just over a minute to play on Kevin Love’s made free throw. Both teams went back and forth from there – but Cleveland found itself down three, 130-127, with just 7.4 to play.
The Bulls intentionally fouled Mitchell with 4.4 remaining to prevent him from attempting a game-tying triple – and he drilled the first free throw. Then, in a night of jaw-dropping plays, Mitchell might have made the best one of the evening – missing the second free throw and working his way around Robin Lopez, grabbing his own rebound and putting back the shot to tie the affair and sent it to overtime.
In the extra-session, it was all Mitchell – drilling all four shots he attempted in OT, including the three-pointer to open the scoring and another bomb with 1:49 to play that effectively sealed the deal as the Wine and Gold improved to 3-0 this season against Chicago.
On the night, Mitchell – whose previous high was 57 points notched against Denver in the Playoff Bubble back in 2020 – went 22-for-34 from the floor, including 7-of-15 from long-range and 20-for-25 from the stripe.
For good measure, the 6th-year man from Louisville led both teams with 11 assists, adding eight rebounds and a blocked shot to his epic performance. In doing so, he became the only player in NBA history to top the 70-point plateau and hand out at least 10 assists in a game.
But Mitchell wasn’t Monday’s only hero for the shorthanded Cavaliers – playing their second straight game without starters Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.
Jarrett Allen was outstanding in the middle – finishing 9-of-10 from the floor for 21 points and eight boards — while Kevin Love, pressed into the starting rotation once again, led all rebounders, grabbing 17 boards to go with 12 points in the win.
Cedi Osman led all reserves with 19 points, going 6-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-11 from long-range and 3-of-4 from the line.
Mitchell’s monster performance also overshadowed a big night from Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, who led Chicago with 44 points. Zach LaVine added 26 for the Bulls while Nikola Vucevic doubled-up with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS
3 … Players in NBA history who have scored more points than Donovan Mitchell in a single game – Wilt Chamberlain (100, 78, 73 [2x] and 72 points), Kobe Bryant (81) and David Thompson (73).
The last player to score at least 70 points in a regular season game was Devin Booker against Boston in 2017 – and that was in a 10-point loss. LeBron James (2017) and Kyrie Irving (2015) had held the previous franchise single-game high-water mark with 57 points each.
Mitchell’s 71 points are an NBA best this season and ties him with Elgin Baylor (1960) and David Robinson (1994) for 6th on the all-time list.
Donovan Mitchell, on being in the same company with names like Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and Elgin Baylor after his 71-point outburst on Monday…
“I did it in an effort where we came back and won and it’s how we won. For me, that’s what’s nuts, to be honest. I’m extremely blessed and I’m humbled that I’m in that company. I’ve always believed I could be one of the best players in this league, but I’ve got to keep working. This was a big milestone, but at the end of the day, those guys won at the highest level – and that’s my ultimate goal – but to be there in the record books with them is truly incredible.”
COURTESY CLEVELAND CAVALIERS MEDIA RELATIONS