Orlando Magic contained Donovan Mitchell in back-to-back playoff wins

The Orlando Magic evened up the first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with two wins at home. Over that stretch, they were able to limit Donovan Mitchell's production which was key to the victories.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic - Game Three
Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic - Game Three / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic have put themselves right back into the mix after falling behind 2-0 in the series to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Back-to-back wins in the Kia Center have made for an intriguing Game 5 in Cleveland with the series tied up.

Orlando's offense picked it up after scoring fewer than 90 points in the first two games in Cleveland. However, as it has been all season, the Magic's defense was very in tune during the team's two wins in Orlando.

The Magic did a really good job at stopping Donovan Mitchell and his efficiency over the past two games that helped them to get even in the series. If Mitchell is the head of the snake, the Magic controlled him to control the Cavaliers in their two victories.

"We know he's the head of the snake," Paolo Banchero said after Saturday's win in Game 4. "He's probably the only guy who can go for 40 on their team. We want to make sure he doesn't do that. We have great guards and guys who can guard him on the perimeter. As bigs, our job is to play behind them and back them up if he gets downhill. We don't want him killing us from behind the three. He's the head of the snake so we've always got to stay locked in."

During Game 1 and 2 in Cleveland, Mitchell finished with 30 and 23 points respectively and shot 52.4 percent and 40.9 percent in both games.

This is relative to what the star guard has been doing all season for the Cavs as he has averaged a shooting percentage right around 46.2 percent all season while leading Cleveland in scoring at 26.6 points per game. His efforts really helped them get the wins in Games 1 and 2, especially considering Cleveland shot just 41.5 percent from the floor in Game 2.

So, it was important for Orlando to find a way to stop him as the series shifted to their home court, a place where they had the sixth-best home record in the league this season.

That is exactly what they did. And they did it largely by shutting down Mitchell every time he seemed to be finding a rhythm.

In Game 3, Orlando held Mitchell to only 13 points on a 37.5-percent shooting night from the field. They also held him in check around the three-point line as he went 1 for 6 from beyond the arc, which had been a theme from the first two games as Mitchell has yet to produce a lights-out night from long range.

What was the result the Magic got? It led to the Cavaliers shooting sub-40 percent and a huge 121-83 win.

Game 4 was a similar story as Orlando tied the series. Mitchell was again held in check.

Mitchell scored a little more as he had 18 points. He dominated the first half, finding ways to get into the lane and pressure the Magic's interior defenders. He got to the line for a perfect 7 for 7. This was different from game three as Mitchell had one free throw attempt the entire game in that matchup.

But Mitchell went scoreless in the second half, missing all four of his shots. He was inefficient as he finished the game shooting 35.7 percent from the field at 5 for 14. His shots were not there and the Magic cut off the Cavs' main scoring option.

"I have to be better, it's simple," Donovan Mitchell said after Saturday's Game 4. "I told you after Game 1, this is who I am and why I'm here. Both games we lost, I haven't been myself.

"To come out the way I came out and then not score the rest of the game, it's a tale of two halfs. It's been like that even when we won the games. I have to figure that out. It's why I'm here. As much as the success I get, I deserve the criticism too. I hold myself to that. You can't have 18 points in the first half and zero in the second and only four shots."

Mitchell has struggled especially in the second half of series. He is averaging 15.0 points per game and 47.7 percent shooting and 35.3 percent from three with 4.5 assists per game in the first half. The Cavs have dominated the first halfs, leading in three of the four games at halftime.

In the second half, Mitchell is averaging 6.0 points per game, on 43.5 percent shooting and 9.1 percent shooting from deep (1 for 11). He averages only 0.5 assists per game. Orlando is doing something to slow Mitchell down. And that has given the team a chance to win in seemingly every game of this series.

It will be one of the defining things to watch in Game 5 as the Cavs try to find a way to take back control of the series.

Cleveland, much like Orlando, is not a team that has won off of explosive offensive showings. They are known for suffocating defense and winning low-scoring battles as was shown in the first two games of this series.

It seems that a lot of the offense and scoring they have had has been from Mitchell and Orlando was able to keep that at a low when the series shifted to the Kia Center.

Next. Magic future stars shining. Orlando Magic's future stars shining on Playoff stage. dark

Low and behold, this may be a key storyline in this series for the remainder of it and a big way Orlando can move on to the second round.

Philip Rossman-Reich contributed to this report.