Donovan Mitchell scores 39 points as Cavaliers push past Magic 106-94 in Game 7 to get Boston next

CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell brought redemption and relief to himself and the Cavaliers.

A year after being bullied and bounced in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Cleveland is moving on.

Mitchell made sure.

"This is why I'm here," he said. “It's my job.”

Mitchell scored 39 points, Caris LeVert added 15 and Cleveland avoided a potentially franchise-shifting loss by rallying for a 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday in Game 7 to advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Cavs trailed by 18 in the first half and were in danger of being eliminated early for the second year in a row — a scenario that may have led to firings.

But Mitchell, who scored 50 in a Game 6 loss at Orlando and has been battling a left knee injury for months, put the Cavs on his back. He carried them past an up-and-coming Orlando team whose playoff inexperience showed in the second half.

“I don’t mean this disrespectful, but it doesn’t really mean much,” Mitchell said. “We didn't come in just to win the first round. We accomplished one goal, now we have to do it again. That’s the mindset.”

According to the NBA, Cleveland's comeback is the largest in a Game 7 since the league began tracking play-by-play in 1997-98.

Evan Mobley grabbed 16 rebounds and Darius Garland hit a critical 3-pointer — after getting a pep talk from Mitchell — in the fourth for Cleveland, which won its first playoff series without LeBron James since 1993.

The Cavs will begin the second round on the road against the top-seeded Celtics in Game 1 on Tuesday. Boston went 2-1 against Cleveland this season.

In the closing minutes, the towel-waving crowd inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse chanted, “We want Boston!” — a matchup that didn't look likely an hour earlier.

“I’m pretty sure everybody thinks they’re going to come in and kick our ass,” Mitchell said. "So for us to continue to stay level-headed throughout, and just be who we are, that’s the biggest thing.”

Paolo Banchero scored 38 — just 14 after halftime — and added 16 rebounds to lead the Magic, who grew up in the series but couldn't figure out how to win in Cleveland as both teams held serve on their floors.

Orlando's Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs went a combined 3 of 28 from the field.

The moment turned out to be too much for the Magic, who pushed the Cavs to the limit.

“After the first game, people were like, I don’t know if they’re ready,” Banchero said. "To come back the way we did, it shows where we’re headed and shows what we’re able to do.”

Down by 10 at halftime, Cleveland raised its defensive intensity in the third quarter and outscored Orlando 33-15. The Magic went just 4 of 24 from the field in the period and seemed hesitant while waiting for Banchero to do more.

The Cavs were up 85-77 in the fourth when Garland, who was in foul trouble in the first half and was clearly frustrated before Mitchell wrapped his arm around him on the bench, drained a 3-pointer from the corner to put Cleveland up 11.

After the shot dropped and Orlando called a timeout, a relieved Garland was bear-hugged by Mitchell, who was acquired in a trade two years ago from Utah to hopefully get Cleveland closer to another championship.

The Cavs took another step with him.

“We’ve been at it for two years and we’ve been trying to get past this first round, so he knew that we all wanted it at the same time and together,” Garland said. "He knew that I was a little bit down in the first half, but he kept trusting me.

“It’s cool just having him in my ear a little bit, just telling me to keep going, stay confident in myself. I really needed it.”

Cleveland was again without starting center Jarrett Allen, who missed the final three games in the series with a painful rib injury sustained from an errant Magic elbow.

Before he got hurt, Allen was Cleveland’s most consistent player against the Magic, getting 20 rebounds in Game 2 while giving the Cavs a defensive presence underneath to at least deter Orlando drives.

His status for the Boston series remains unknown.

Led by the 21-year-old Banchero, the Magic, who only won 22 games two years ago before they selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, were 24 minutes from winning a series they trailed 2-0.

But Orlando didn’t have enough — or Mitchell.

Whenever the Cavs needed a big play, the All-Star guard made one. Whenever a teammate needed support, he was there. And in scoring 89 points in the final two games, Mitchell may have finally silenced critics who pointed to his inability to close.

This time, he finished the job.

“That’s what special players do when it matters most,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He was special when he needed to be.”

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