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Donovan Mitchell scores 71 points, taking scoring boom to new heights

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell set a career high, a franchise record and a 2022-23 NBA season high by scoring 71 points in a victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday. (Ron Schwane/AP)
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Donovan Mitchell took the NBA’s season-long scoring boom to new heights Monday, pouring in a career-high 71 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 145-134 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls.

The three-time all-star guard became just the seventh player in history to score at least 70 points, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, David Thompson, David Robinson, Kobe Bryant and Devin Booker. At 6-foot-1, Mitchell became the shortest player in history to top the 70-point threshold, and his 71 points are the most scored in an NBA game since Bryant’s 81-point effort against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Mitchell eclipsed Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic’s 60-point explosion against the New York Knicks last week for the most points in a game this season.

“It’s humbling. I’m speechless, to be honest with you,” Mitchell said. “This is nuts. I’m extremely blessed and humbled to be in that company. I’ve always believed that I can be one of the best players in this league, but I’ve got to keep working. To be there in the record books with them is truly incredible.”

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Mitchell shattered his regular season career high of 46 — which he set three times as a member of the Utah Jazz — and broke the Cavaliers’ franchise scoring record of 57 points, which was shared by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. During the 2020 playoffs, Mitchell scored 57 points while playing for the Jazz.

“I’ve never been witness to a performance like that live,” Cavaliers Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We were treated tonight to one of the greatest performances in the history of the NBA.”

Mitchell, who was acquired by the Cavaliers from the Jazz in a September blockbuster trade, had to carry a heavier load than usual Monday with Darius Garland and Evan Mobley sidelined by injuries. Undaunted, the 26-year-old guard shot 22 for 34 from the field, 7 for 15 on three-pointers and 20 for 25 from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds and 11 assists in 50 minutes, telling reporters afterward that he had never scored 71 points in a game, other than while playing the “NBA 2K” video game.

“When I first got into the league, I played [2K] as the Jazz, and I was shooting it every time,” Mitchell said. "I don’t think I did it this efficiently in 2K. I never have [scored 71]. The closest I think I got was in the bubble when I had 57. But that was in a loss, so this one feels a lot better.”

To complete his big night, Mitchell needed a little Doncic-like magic to complete a 21-point comeback. With Chicago’s lead down to three, Mitchell was fouled with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. He proceeded to make the first free throw and intentionally miss the second. After grabbing his own offensive rebound, Mitchell made a tying layup with three seconds left to force overtime, just as Doncic had done against the Knicks. In the extra period, Mitchell scored 13 of Cleveland’s 15 points to seal the win.

“If I can just get it on the rim with some loft and take off, use my athleticism to get there, and make the play,” Mitchell said of his last-second heroics. "When you loft it, I can put it up there and it hits the rim and goes up, so now I can put myself in the play. Just go jump and try to make a play.”

This latest scoring outburst comes during a season in which offense has reached heights not seen in years. Entering Monday, NBA teams were averaging 113.7 points, the highest mark since 1969-70, when teams averaged 116.7. The average offensive rating this season is 113.5, per, setting a high for the three-point era.

Last week, Doncic became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double with at least 60 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. On Monday alone, five players topped 40 points, including Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who had 54 points in a double-overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Mitchell and Thompson became the eighth and ninth players, respectively, to score at least 50 points this season, joining Booker, Doncic, Garland, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Pascal Siakam and Stephen Curry. Giannis Antetokounmpo became the 10th with a 55-point performance against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. By comparison, only three players topped 50 points in a game during the 2012-13 season.

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