It’s been a season of peaks and valleys for the Cavaliers, who have followed up a five-game losing skid by winning three straight including Monday night’s 114-102 triumph over the visiting Hawks at sold-out Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. The Cavs were led by Donovan Mitchell’s 29 points and four rebounds, with one of those coming on the game’s final possession. What Mitchell apparently didn’t realize when he corralled Vit Krejci’s miss with 13 seconds remaining was that teammate Evan Mobley, who was also in the vicinity, needed one more rebound to secure his fifth double-double of the season and the 26th of his fledgling career.
Even if Mitchell had known Mobley was sitting on nine boards, which clearly wasn’t the case (his moment of clarity comes around the 21-second mark), that’s a lot to process in a short amount of time. It also would have gone against his natural instinct, betraying years of internal wiring.
Double-doubles—any combination of double-digit points, rebounds or assists—occur on a nightly basis, rendering Mitchell’s faux pas a relatively minor offense. It’s also early in Mobley’s second NBA season, with plenty, arguably more important, milestones to come. Of course, that didn’t stop Mitchell from apologizing profusely after the game, calling himself a “terrible teammate” for poaching what could have been Mobley’s 10th rebound of the night.
Mitchell’s genuine hurt at depriving a teammate of a fairly meaningless accomplishment speaks volumes about his character, taking a leadership role within the locker room. While players do keep tabs on their counting stats, tracking them throughout the game (Cavs alum Ricky Davis famously missed a shot on the opposite hoop in pursuit of a triple-double), team success is still the ultimate currency. Surely Mobley has higher ambitions than logging double-digit rebounds against the Hawks, though it would have been a nice feather in his cap, signifying a noteworthy performance by one of the league’s up-and-coming stars.