Donovan Mitchell has been as good as advertised in his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers as they face the New York Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
The teams are trending in opposite directions with Cleveland winning seven of its last nine games, while New York has lost six of eight. The Knicks also have lost five consecutive home games, including Saturday's 121-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Mitchell, who was acquired from the Utah Jazz prior to the season, is averaging a team-best 28.7 points while shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from 3-point range.
The three-time All-Star led the Cavs to their win on Friday, scoring 34 points in a 107-96 victory over the Orlando Magic.
"He just has the ability to take over a game and put a team on his back," Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "He's also a very positive, upbeat person. He just wants to be a part of winning."
Mitchell had 16 points in the first nine minutes against Orlando and received plenty of help as the Cavaliers won their sixth consecutive home game and hold an NBA-best 10-1 mark at home.
"This is no shot at my guys in Utah, but I'm having fun again and that goes a long way," said Mitchell. "This group has a bunch of guys who want to learn and who want to be great.
"Sometimes a new beginning is all you need. I've fit in here because I've filled a void."
Evan Mobley is averaging 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds for Cleveland, while point guard Darius Garland has been a revelation with 22.5 points and 8.0 assists.
"Consistency is the name of the game," Mobley said. "I'm just trying to be as consistent as possible, always watching film and trying to get better and attack where I see the best options and make the best play out of every possession I get."
The Cavaliers have won their past four meetings against New York.
The Knicks, meantime, seem to play their worst at home.
Saturday, Julius Randle scored 24 points and Immanuel Quickly had 23 for the Knicks, who led by as many as 15 in the first half but were outscored 41-15 in the third quarter and never threatened after that against Dallas.
Jalen Brunson was held to 13 points against his former team as New York fell to 4-7 at home, where their record is better only than Orlando's 4-8 mark in the Eastern Conference -- but Orlando has won only five games all season. The Knicks are a respectable 6-6 on the road.
"I just think that we have to bring our same road intensity back home," Brunson said. "At home, we're obviously more comfortable and all that. On the road, it's just us on the road, it's us and the hostile environment. I think we've just got to bring that same mentality at home and finish games."
New York faces another tough challenge against Cleveland's imposing frontline. The Cavaliers could be without center Jarrett Allen, who has missed the past four games due to a bruised lower back and is listed as day-to-day.
Cavaliers forward Lamar Stevens returned from a four-game absence with a non-COVID-19 illness and scored eight points in 15 minutes on Friday.
--Field Level Media