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Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers deliver Game 7 magic to defeat Orlando, advance to conference semis

CLEVELAND — Whether or not Donovan Mitchell’s long-term future with the Cavaliers is in doubt, the city belongs to him right now.

Mitchell, successor to LeBron James in Cleveland in so many ways, led the franchise to its first playoff series victory without The King since 1993 in a 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 7 of their first-round series.

Mitchell, following his 50 points in a Game 6 loss, would not be denied Sunday with 24 of his 39 points in the second half, serenaded by deafening “MVP” chants from a raucous, frothing crowd at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Cavs, who chose this side of the bracket by tanking the fourth quarter of the last game of the regular season to make sure they finished fourth and drew Orlando in the first round, will face the No. 1 Boston Celtics in an Eastern Conference semifinal.

Game 1 is at Boston’s TD Garden at 7 pm on Tuesday.

Mitchell’s 89 points in Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series are the second most in NBA history, trailing only Allen Iverson’s 90.

Cleveland, winners of four consecutive Game 7s (dating to Game 7 of the 2016 Finals), trailed by as many as 18 in the first half and by 10 at halftime. Mitchell, who was just 3-of-13 in the first half, stormed from the locker room to pour in 17 points in the third. His push through Jalen Suggs’ foul in the lane for a short jumper with 4:09 left in the third quarter tied the score at 64, and subjectively speaking, Cleveland’s arena may not have been that loud after Mitchell’s play since all those Finals runs with James.

Mitchell was not alone in the rally, however. Max Strus, scoreless in the first half, scored 11 of his 13 points in the third — including a 3-pointer with 2:23 left in the third for a 71-68 lead Cleveland never relinquished. Strus was signed to a four-year contract from the Miami Heat last summer to beef up the team’s outside shooting after Cleveland’s first-round playoff loss to the New York Knicks. He picked the right time to make good on the promise the Cavs saw in him with those three 3s in the pivotal third.

Paolo Banchero finished a tremendous first playoff series, with 38 points and 16 rebounds. The 21-year-old became the youngest player to score 30-plus points in three games in the same playoff series.

Wendell Carter Jr., who started the series on the bench, added 13 points and Suggs finished with 10. Orlando shot 29-of-86 from the field and will lament letting a golden opportunity for advancement slip away.

No road team won a game in this series. The Cavs led by nine at halftime of Game 4, and by five entering the fourth quarter of Game 6, but crumbled twice. Orlando’s lead in the second quarter, of nearly 20, seemed insurmountable, but the Magic couldn’t make a shot. Franz Wagner and Suggs, Orlando’s top players next to Banchero, shot a combined 3-of-28 in Game 7.

The Magic, who by all accounts are ahead of schedule with their program building, remain winless in any playoff series since 2010.

Cleveland received 15 points from Caris LeVert, who struggled so mightily in Game 6 that he logged just seven minutes. Evan Mobley finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds as Cleveland’s only big man. Darius Garland struggled mightily to shoot (3-of-13 overall), but his 3-pointer with 5:53 left in the fourth made it 88-77. Mitchell wrapped him in an embrace after the shot, which sent the game into a timeout. Garland finished with 12 points.

Cavs center Jarrett Allen (rib contusion) did not play in the final three games of this series. He was averaging 17 points and nearly 14 rebounds before an elbow from Wagner in Game 4 “pierced” a rib on his right side, team sources said, leaving his status for Game 1 Tuesday in question.

For Cleveland, “questionable” is much better than out — end of season. For a while Sunday, it was headed that way.

This story will be updated.

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(Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today)