Celtics Explain Donovan Mitchell Scheme After Game 3 Victory

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The Boston Celtics referred to the Cleveland Cavaliers as their new challenge, understanding that regardless of who they’d match up with in the second round of the playoffs, the series would demand something different.

With a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4, it’s clear that stopping five-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell sits atop Boston’s new agenda. Mitchell leads the series, averaging 31.7 points, ranking third in the NBA in usage (34.9%), and shooting an unstoppable 16-of-30 (53%) from 3-point range, which has been taxing for the Celtics thus far. Especially when Boston struggled with its scoring department, finishing with a season-fewest 94 points in Game 2.

To limit Mitchell’s playoff damage, the Celtics executed a simple, but no less clever game plan to attack Cleveland’s No. 1 option in their 106-93 win.

“I just thought about being aggressive,” Celtics guard Jrue Holiday said, per Brian Robb of MassLive. “We know Donovan’s going to be aggressive on one side of the ball but we can make him run on the other side if he’s guarding me. There’s a lot of times where I might defer or do something (else) and I just thought maybe attacking him might get him even more exhausted by the third or fourth quarter.”

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Holiday, who’d been relatively silent by averaging 8.1 points before Saturday night, pitched in by logging his best postseason performance with the Celtics. The 33-year-old contributed to tiring out Mitchell the best Holiday could, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, which eventually paid off.

Mitchell, once again, led the Cavaliers in scoring (33 points), but as the Celtics took off in the fourth quarter and buried Cleveland’s ineffective last-minute push, Mitchell wasn’t the same. Playing a game-high 43 minutes, the 27-year-old ended the night with just three points in the fourth quarter, shooting 1-for-4 in 10:41 minutes on the floor.

Previously, Mitchell had been a dark cloud cast over Boston, scoring 23 second-half points in Game 2, the same amount as the Celtics entire starting lineup combined. Boston’s effective game plan sent a confident Cleveland home crowd filing out of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse’s exit tunnels early.

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“Give them credit. They came out with a sense of urgency and that’s what’s tough. It’s tough to come back from that,” Mitchell told reporters, per team-provided video. “But they came out with an intention on both ends of the floor and really on the offensive end. You know when they get going, that’s who they are. They hit threes and three after three after three.”

Mitchell continued: “It’s hard to fight an uphill battle.”

Cleveland now finds itself in the hot seat, tasked with preventing Boston from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Monday night.

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