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Donovan Mitchell scores 23 as Cavaliers power to 96-86 win over Magic and 2-0 lead in series

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Through two games, the Cavaliers have been tough guys in these playoffs.

This year, they’re the bullies.

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points, Jarrett Allen had 20 rebounds and Cleveland outlasted the Orlando Magic 96-86 on Monday night in a second straight slugfest to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference series.

It’s been an impressive opening for the Cavs, who spent the regular season waiting for a chance to redeem themselves following last year’s first-round exit against the New York Knicks, who punished Cleveland in five games.

The Cavs were labeled soft, especially Allen, who was criticized for saying “the lights were too bright.” They’ve flipped the script so far.

“It’s very satisfying,” Allen said. “It shows that we’ve grown not only as a team but as individuals. We’re not folding under pressure. We do have our moments, but as a whole I feel like we’ve taken a huge step.”

Mitchell set the tone as the Cavs led from start to finish, just as they did in Game 1.

Evan Mobley added 17 points and Allen scored 16 — with nine offensive rebounds — for Cleveland. He’s the third player in team history to get 20 rebounds in a playoff game, joining Kevin Love (21) and Brad Daugherty (20).

“It means a lot,” Allen said. “It’s good company.”

Paolo Banchero scored 21 points and Franz Wagner 18 for the Magic, who have only come back to win one playoff series in 13 tries when losing the series opener. They’re now in an even deeper hole.

As was the case in Game 1, the Magic couldn’t find their shooting touch. They shot 36% from the floor, including 9 of 35 on 3-pointers.

“We’ve got to make shots, that’s the name of the game,” said Banchero, who was 9 of 20. “It’s frustrating for everybody when you keep shooting and it’s not going in. The way these two games have gone, I don’t think anyone thinks this will continue when we come home.”

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday in Orlando, and Allen is expecting another physical battle.

“First one to 85,” the 6-foot-11 Allen predicted. “lt’s been a defensive-minded series and let’s keep it that way.”

Magic guard Jalen Suggs went down with a sprained left knee in the first quarter. He collapsed to the floor after making contact with Mitchell and immediately grabbed his leg in pain. After being helped up, an emotional Suggs couldn’t put any weight on his leg as he was carried to the locker room.

However, the former high school football star returned after halftime with a sleeve on his leg. He finished with nine points and sparked a rally in the fourth quarter as the Magic scored 13 straight to pull within 87-78.

Mitchell, though, checked back in and scored two quick baskets to restore order for the Cavs.

“We did some good things,” Mitchell said. “I’m not mad at the way we played, but we can be better.”

‘Suggs’ injury seemed to shake his teammates. The Magic were only 14-13 when he went out, but the Cavs closed the opening quarter with a 19-5 flurry to open a 12-point lead.

“It takes the wind out of your team when our head of the snake on defense goes down,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He was in quite a bit of pain when he returned, so we’ll evaluate him when we get back home.”

Suggs did not seem to be in any pain following the game, and was confident he’d be good to go in Game 3.

“I’m good,” he said. “I was able to finish. It will be cool to get back home and get treatment for a couple of days. We play Thursday at 7 p.m. and I’ll be ready.”

Garland’s layup with 9:09 left gave the Cavs a 22-point lead, allowing their towel-waving fans to let off some steam and celebrate Cleveland getting a second postseason win for the first time since 2018.

Allen knows getting a third win won’t be easy.

“We know when we go to their place, they’re going to be a completely different team,” he said. “They’re going to have their home crowd behind them. They don’t want it to get to 3-0. They’re just going to try to come at us like we’ve been doing to them.”

UP NEXT

Orlando hosts its first playoff game since April 21, 2019. It will be Cleveland’s first postseason visit there since the 2009 conference finals.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

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