CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It was Monday night, more than 30 minutes after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ double-digit win over the Atlanta Hawks -- perhaps their most complete victory and a bit of vengeance for the team that ended Cleveland’s dream season six months earlier.
There were smiles and jokes. Lots of laughter. And an apology.
That expression of regret came from star guard Donovan Mitchell, the early-season MVP candidate who rarely has reason to apologize. Mitchell had just scored a game-high 29 points and dished out nine assists while shooting at least 50% from the field for the 11th time. With him on the floor, the Cavs outscored the Hawks by 14 points, combining with Darius Garland to get the better of the other star-studded Eastern Conference backcourt -- Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.
But Mitchell couldn’t shake his grievous mistake at the end of the game, robbing second-year phenom Evan Mobley of a 10th rebound, which would’ve given the youngster a sixth double-double this season.
Mobley didn’t really care. It’s not about stats for him. Winning is all that matters, something Mitchell has learned in the two-plus months he’s been in Cleveland. Before the night ended, the two franchise pillars shared a couple bro-hugs -- and Mitchell extended an offer. It was much more than a verbal plea. His way of making amends.
“I’m going to take him to dinner and pay for dinner if he wants to go,” Mitchell relayed. “If he doesn’t want to go with me, I understand.”
That night, as the towel-clad Mitchell strolled from the shower to his locker in the opposite corner, Cedi Osman was answering questions about the win. He saw Mitchell out of the corner of his eye and couldn’t help it. So, he took a playful shot at his teammate.
“That was crazy, but we’re not going to talk about that right now,” Osman said of Mitchell taking Mobley’s board.
About a half hour earlier, the 6-foot-1 guard soared and extended his right arm over the top of Mobley’s waiting palms. As Mitchell came down with the ball, everyone knew it. Mobley slapped his hands together while Jarrett Allen mean-mugged Mitchell and Osman pointed. Players on the bench, who were standing and shouting for Mobley to “get up,” were incredulous.
Then when the buzzer sounded, a repentant Mitchell dropped the ball and put his hands on his head. He couldn’t believe it.
Teammates haven’t stopped giving Mitchell a hard time about it. That moment became one of the hilarious talking points following Monday’s victory -- and it’s continued in the days since.
“You know, you play with somebody for a couple months and you really think you know them, right?” Allen said with a laugh Wednesday morning. “It’s all love. It happens.”
“We got him one today,” Mitchell said, referencing Mobley’s 10-point, 12-rebound game against Portland on Wednesday. “He got the double-double. Made sure we got him one.”
All is forgiven. No biggie. But that doesn’t mean Mobley won’t be taking Mitchell up on the offer. Mobley’s plans to make Mitchell pay. Literally.
“We just got to pick a spot,” Mobley said with a smile. “We’re definitely going to a nice spot.”
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