3 reasons Cleveland Cavaliers secured Game 7 comeback to eliminate Magic

Despite a poor first half, Donovan Mitchell once again saved Cavaliers from themselves as Cleveland beat Orlando in a defensive matchup.
Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Despite facing a 17-point deficit in the second quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic in a do-or-die Game 7 in the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

With the comeback victory and after a tumultuous series, the Cavs now advance to the second round of the playoffs and have a date with the top-seeded Boston Celtics, who are currently moving forward without Kristaps Porzingis.

But before we get there for Cleveland, we should appreciate how they got there. Specifically, let's dive into what led to the Cavs' comeback in Game 7 in order to secure the win-or-go-home victory.

3. Cavs second half defense was lights-out

As Cleveland fell behind in the first half, their defense looked hapless trying to defend Orlando beyond the 3-point line. Coming out of the locker room from halftime, though, the switch flipped for the Cavs. The effects were immediate as they held the Magic to just 15 points in the entire third quarter, flipping a 10-point halfime deficit to an eight-point lead in the Cavaliers' favor.

To be sure, the Magic's youth and inexperience, particularly with young stars like Paolo Banchero, showed up as part of this in a clutch moment of a Game 7. Having said that, the Cavs still tightened up tremendously on the defensive end in the second, allowing them to take control of the game and for their offense to capitalize.

2. Max Strus came up huge as a much-needed sharpshooter

When the Cavaliers signed Max Strus, they were most likely looking for the veteran sharpshooter to provide spacing and key shot-making ability during important moments. During Game 7 with Cleveland's season hanging in the balance, the former Heat wing came up with exactly what the Cavs had been hoping for from him.

Strus converted three of his six 3-point attempts as the veteran also shot 55 percent from the field. At times, the Cavs seemed to be missing offensive production from players not named Donovan Mitchell. On Sunday afternoon, Strus was able to rise to the call and was a major reason why the Cavs took Game 7.

1. Donovan Mitchell was the superstar the Cavs ask him to be

Make no mistake, Donovan Mitchell's first half was one to quickly forget for the Cavaliers star, particularly with his inefficient shooting from the floor. But even with that, he was the most vital cog in securing the Game 7 victory and pushing the Cavs to the second round.

Mitchell consistently knifed through and around the Magic defense off the dribble to get separation and find good looks with his jumper in stride, and it paid dividends. He also drove and finished at the rim exceptionally well. But his most impressive feat may have been singlehandedly tying Orlando's offensive output in the third quarter, scoring 15 himself as the Magic put up that many as a team.

All told, Mitchell finished the win with a game-high 39 points with nine rebounds and five assist while adding a steal and a block and only committing one turnover. Cleveland needed its superstar to deliver, and Mitchell came up in the biggest moments of the year to date.