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Donovan Mitchell sets Cavs record with 71-point masterpiece

Donovan Mitchell
Ron Schwane
/
AP
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots against Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cleveland.

Halfway into his first season with the Cavs, Donovan Mitchell is already in the record books. Mitchell scored a franchise-record 71-points in Monday’s overtime win over Chicago. And he’s just the seventh player in NBA history to join the 70-point club.

The last time a player scored that many points was Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant with 81 against Toronto in 2006. Wilt Chamberlain owns the NBA record with 100 for Philadelphia against the New York Knicks in 1962.

Ideastream Public Media commentator Terry Pluto says Mitchell’s game was quite different from many of those who’ve done it before.

“I interviewed Wilt Chamberlain for one of my books called Tall Tales. He is almost embarrassed by that [100-point game] because he said the game got out of control. ‘I really should have been out of it. They left me in there and said, 'Wilt, go score 100 points.’ So, they kept feeding him the ball and he’s dunking over guys. Wilt was seven-foot, which made him just a giant for that time in the early sixties,” Pluto said.

As for Kobe Byrant’s 81-point performance, “That was right at the end of his career. And they kind of let Kobe score. It was a meaningless game,” Pluto said.

As for Mitchell’s performance, “this was between two division rivals, both teams playing to get in the playoffs and is a game that went into overtime and they almost needed all those 71 points to win the game,” Pluto said.

The Cavs were also trailing by as many as 21 points.

“It was a game where [Mitchell] scored five points in the first quarter and the last five games he's been struggling. Also, the Cavs were playing without two starters, their All-Star point guard Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, both were out with injuries. And you could tell that Mitchell decided, ‘I've got to really take this thing over.’”

It was Mitchell who forced overtime by purposely missing a free throw, getting his own rebound, and sinking a basket to tie the score with three seconds left.

Pluto said he was more in awe after re-watching the game.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots against Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine
Ron Schwane
/
AP
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots against Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cleveland.

“Very few, what I call bad shots. It's not like he was just jacking up the ball. He took 34 shots and made 22 of them. ... He went to the foul line 25 times and made 20," Pluto said. "If you were to put an NBA stress meter on it, on how hard he had to work to get those points and when they were coming, they were coming in the fourth quarter. They're coming in the overtime period. He only sat out three of a total of the 53 minutes. I don't know how he did it.”

Pluto said he witnessed a similar game in 1990 when Michael Jordan scored 69 points.

“It was an overtime game just like this one, Cavs and Bulls again," he said. "I remember Jordan just working so hard. At the end of the game, everybody was exhausted.”

When you think of the Cavs and franchise records, most people would assume LeBron James holds them all. But Mitchell now holds the single-game scoring record.

“LeBron in his heyday could have gone out and probably got 75 or 80. He really could have, if that's what he wanted. Remember, he liked to score, but that was never his thing. It was not how he measured himself. In the same way, he would have won some slam dunk contests, but always refused to enter it. You know, he always wanted to be viewed as a full basketball player. I think actually Donovan Mitchell, for the most part, is a complete player. He had 11 assists in that game.”

And Pluto said Mitchell continues to prove his value to the Cavs, who made a high-stakes trade to with Utah to get him in the offseason.

“You can see just the way he interacts with his teammates and that. He's the best player, but he works really hard at being one of the guys. And, once again, if you're watching the team, they are just fun to watch," Pluto said. "They are still really engaged with each other and they saw a record-breaking performance.”