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Donovan Mitchell’s 71-point game aided by horrible officiating, illegal play

Cleveland Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell found himself in the midst of an historic performance during Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

The recently-acquired star had already surpassed both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James for the most points in single-game Cavaliers franchise history with 57. He just made a free throw to pull Cleveland to within two points with 4.7 seconds remaining.

Much like what we saw during Luka Doncic’s record-breaking performance late last month, Mitchell intentionally missed the second free throw in hopes of landing a rebound and giving Cleveland a chance to tie it up. That’s exactly what the All-Star did, nabbing the board and putting it back in for a 130-130 tie after regulation.

But there was something off about the play. As you will see in the video below, Mitchell actually violated the free-throw line before the ball hit the rim. That should have been Chicago’s ball with a one-point lead and just over four seconds remaining.

This wasn’t necessarily close. Unfortunately, the officiating crew on hand at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, led by veteran Tony Brothers, was seemingly too focused on the game clock than checking for any violations.

Donovan Mitchell would go on to score 71 points in the Cavaliers’ 145-134 victory. In the process, he became the first player in Association history to score at least 70 points while dishing out double-digit assists.

None of this is to take away from Mitchell’s otherworldly performance. We’re not trying to discount it here. Rather, the obvious mistake we saw from officials above could have ended up costing Chicago this game while helping send “Spider” into the record books.

Related: Donovan Mitchell and the top NBA MVP candidates of 2023

More on Donovan Mitchell’s record-setting performance

donovan mitchell 71-point game
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell’s performance on Monday night in Cleveland represented only the 12th 70-point game in NBA history. It’s the first time this has happened since Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker dropped 70 in a game against the Boston Celtics back in 2017.

It’s also tied for the eighth-most points scored by an NBA player in single-game history, joining Elgin Baylor (1960) and David Robinson (1994). Of the top-11 individual scoring performances, Wilt Chamberlain holds six of them. That just goes to show us the type of company Mitchell is in right now.

“To be there in the record book with guys like Wilt is truly humbling,” Donovan Mitchell told reporters after the game, via ESPN. “I always believed I could be one of the best players in the league. I’m speechless and blessed to be in the company of that greatness.”

Mitchell’s record-setting performance Monday night was overshadowed in the sports world by the scary incident involving Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin during Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals. The second-year player had to receive CPR on the field after falling to the turf following a hit. He was rushed to the hospital and is currently in critical condition.

Even after joining the likes of Wilt and Kobe Bryant with one of the greatest single-game performances in Association history, Mitchell took time to recognize what happened in Cincinnati while sending his thoughts to Hamlin.

Talk about a class act. The Cavaliers certainly got themselves a keeper in Donovan Mitchell regardless of the bad non-call that helped him make history.