Season Recap, Part 3: An Extended Season

Not all great stories have happy endings. 

So, if you’re someone like Cavs play-by-play man John Michael, who was thoroughly disappointed that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” took a tough turn at the end, you might want to skip Part III of our three-part series recapping of the 2022-23 season. 

When they packed up their gear for the summer, the young Cavaliers learned the tough lesson that Playoff life needs to be lived and not just talked about and that the regular season and the postseason are two completely different animals.

But for all the frustration the team and its fans felt when Cleveland’s Playoff run came up short, the most important thing to remember is that when next season tips off in October, the Cavs core four – Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley – will be an average of 24.2 years of age. This thing is just getting started. 

Looking back on last year, by the time the All-Star Break rolled around, the Cavs were looking like a lock for the postseason, taking a 38-23 mark into the turn. Cleveland had just 21 games remaining and a friendly road schedule down the stretch – playing four sets of the NBA’s new back-to-back sets, in Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and Orlando. 

The Wine & Gold clinched their first Playoff berth since 2018 on March 26, holding off the Rockets at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse – and from there, fought to lock up the 4th-seed and homecourt advantage in the First Round. 

Here’s how they got there and how things went when they did …


Unlike the previous season, when Allen and Garland Mitchell represented the Cavaliers at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, the squad’s lone representative this year was Donovan Mitchell – making his second trip to Salt Lake City in over a month after being named a starter.

It was Mitchell’s fourth All-Star appearance in six NBA seasons, and he was the fourth Cavalier in team history to start the midseason classic – joining LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Shawn Kemp. 

Mitchell didn’t disappoint in the high-scoring affair – going off for 40 points and 10 assists, drilling eight three-pointers in the process. No other player in All-Star Game history had ever posted those numbers, and his 40-point performance was the most ever by a Cavalier. 


Only the Bucks and Celtics won more games at home in the East this year than the Wine & Gold, winning 32 games to Cleveland’s 31. But through the early part of the year, the Cavaliers struggled away from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, taking a 13-17 mark into the Break. 

But not long after All-Star Weekend, Cleveland got it right on the road. The Cavs dropped their first two – a lopsided loss to Boston and heartbreaker in Atlanta – before closing the campaign winning seven of their last nine. 

Over a four-game stop in two cities – Miami and Charlotte – the Cavaliers took three of four before traveling to Brooklyn for a pair. 

Led by Donovan Mitchell’s 31 points, Cleveland won the first game of the two-game set. That paved the way for possibly the game of the season two nights later – with Isaac Okoro drilling a three-pointer from the corner with 0.7 seconds remaining to cap a furious Cavaliers rally, closing the contest on a 12-2 run over the final two minutes. 

Cleveland capped its late road success by taking a pair in the Magic Kingdom after locking up the Conference’s 4th seed with their 50th and 51st wins of the season. 


Individually, the Cavaliers closed the regular season in style. 

Darius Garland notched double-figure scoring in every outing over that final 21-game stretch, topping the 20-point mark nine times to go with a 33-point effort against Atlanta and three double-doubles in the mix. Jarrett Allen doubled-up in six of his first 11 outings after All-Weekend. And Isaac Okoro was shooting 52 percent from the floor, including 43 percent from long-range, after the Break before missing the final six games with a left knee injury. 

But the two Cavaliers who made the biggest leap over the regular season’s final stretch were Caris LeVert and Evan Mobley. 

Traded to Cleveland just over one year earlier, LeVert caught his rhythm in the Cavaliers two-game stop in Miami – and from March 10, the 7th-year man from Michigan averaged 15.8ppg on 54 percent from the floor, including 52 percent from deep, despite starting just four games over that final 12-game stretch.

Mobley – the 3rd overall pick, and runner-up for Rookie of the Year the previous season – got more aggressive on both ends of the Break as a sophomore.  The soft-spoken seven-footer registered seven double-doubles, going off for 31 points on 12-for-19 shooting and nine boards against Denver in the first game of the unofficial second half. Mobley had 10 games of multiple blocks, including five outings with four blocks apiece.  


Thus far, we’ve looked at some of the highlights of the final 21-game stretch of the regular season. A visit by the New York Knicks on March 31 was not one of them. But in many ways, it was a vision of things to come. 

In that loss, in front of a pulsating crowd at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse that saw Cleveland score 47 points in the opening period, Jalen Brunson (48 points) outdueled Donovan Mitchell (42 points) as New York shut down the Cavs late while dominating them on the offensive glass, 16-3.

As it turned out, those were the two biggest issues for Cleveland in the postseason. Brunson was easily the best player in the series, topping the 20-point mark in all five games and averaging 24.0ppg overall. In terms of offensive rebounding, New York finished with a 75-46 advantage that felt worse than that. Over the final two games it was worse – the Knicks outing Cleveland, 34-11. 

The Cavaliers were impressive in a 17-point Game 2 victory – with Darius Garland erupting in the second quarter and finishing with 32 points, with Donovan Mitchell handing out a career-best 13 assists in the win. 

But things reversed course quickly when the two teams returned to New York. The Knicks held Cleveland to an NBA season-low 79 points in a Game 3 shellacking and again kept the Cavs under the century mark in a Sunday afternoon Game 4 loss at the Garden.   

Neither team was especially sharp in the deciding Game 5 back at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but the Knicks grabbed 17 offensive boards to just four for the Wine and Gold – and Cleveland’s return to the postseason proved to be a short one for the young Cavaliers. 


You didn’t think we were going to leave you on a low note going into a late-spring weekend, did you? 

The Cavaliers didn’t meet their ultimate goal, but in terms of their age and upward trajectory, they’re right where they need to be. As Koby Altman said at his season-ending presser in Independence a couple weeks ago: “The talent is in the building.” 

Two of his most talented youngsters – Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell – were rewarded for their outstanding seasons in 2022-23. 

Only Kobe Bryant was a younger All-Defensive Team First Team member than 21-year-old Evan Mobley, who proved to be one of the most versatile defenders in the Association as a sophomore. Mobley – who had 33 games of multiple swats this year – became just the third Cavalier in team history, joining LeBron and Larry Nance, to be named First Team All-Defense. 

Donovan Mitchell had one of the most accomplished seasons in Cavaliers history after being dealt to Cleveland just weeks before Training Camp – and late last week, he was named Second Team All-NBA, joining Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic. 

In his first season in a Cavs uniform, Mitchell started the season with five 30-point games in his first six outings. He shattered the franchise’s single-season three-pointers mark. He scored at least 40-points on 13 occasions, dropped 40 points in the All-Star Game and became just the seventh player in league history to score at 70 points. 

That, and the fact that he’ll be just 27 when the 2023-24 season tips off.