Donovan Mitchell praises ‘jumping’ Madison Square Garden atmosphere during Cavs-Knicks playoff series

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Donovan Mitchell didn’t get the results he wanted at Madison Square Garden during the 2023 NBA Playoffs, but the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar definitely loved the atmosphere at the legendary arena.

With their first-round series against the New York Knicks tied 1-1 after splitting the first two games in Cleveland, Mitchell and the Cavs dropped two straight at Madison Square Garden. They then returned to lose Game 5 at home to end their season short of expectations.

The arena’s energy prior to Game 3 may have had an effect on the Cavs, who suffered a 20-point loss. Cleveland actually held a lead as late as the second quarter before things got out of hand. New York built a 13-point halftime lead and went on from there for a 99-79 win.

Mitchell scored 22 points in Game 3 and then managed only 11 in a 102-93 loss in Game 4.

The Knicks were long rumored to be a potential landing spot for Mitchell, a New York native who is a big New York Mets fan. He instead was traded to the Cavaliers by the Utah Jazz last offseason.

Despite the disappointing playoff elimination, the Cavs will enter the 2023 NBA offseason with some optimism. They won 51 regular season games and made the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Mitchell proved he can be a franchise player in Cleveland, and he believes he should have been named to the All-NBA First Team this season.

Darius Garland heads a talented supporting cast that includes Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Cleveland also reportedly will try to keep Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens, giving the Cavs a productive core group that has familiarity with the organization.

Poor shooting arguably led to the Cavs’ demise in the series, and it’s something they’ll look to improve this offseason, focusing in part on 3-and-D wings. They might have some competition in that pursuit, with the Phoenix Suns looming as potential bidding rivals in the market.

The Cavaliers and Knicks may have a budding rivalry going forward in the Eastern Conference, and Mitchell and his teammates are likely to have plenty more chances to succeed in the legendary Madison Square Garden environment.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.