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Brad Daugherty. Larry Nance. Mark Price. Craig Ehlo. Mike Sanders. These were the five Cleveland Cavalier starters on May 9, 1993, when they faced the then-New Jersey Nets in a winner-take-all Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. The game would prove historic in ways those Cavaliers could not have imagined at the time. When Cleveland snuck out a 99-89 victory over the Nets, those five core Cavaliers didn't realize they had just won the franchise's final playoff series without a certain hometown hero for over three decades.

In the decade that followed, Cleveland failed to win a single playoff series. In 2003, they took a step towards fixing that by drafting LeBron James. The greatest Cavalier in history led Cleveland to the NBA Finals five times and won a championship in 2016, but the team famously struggled during his four-year sojourn to Miami to play for the Heat. Cleveland didn't reach the playoffs once in that span. The Cavaliers also missed the playoffs in the four years after his second departure in 2018 as well. They finally made it back to the playoffs for the first time in over two decades without James a year ago, but they fell to the New York Knicks in the first round.

But on Sunday, the Cavaliers finally got back over the hump. For the first time since that fateful day in 1993, they managed to win a playoff series without LeBron James on their roster by defeating the Orlando Magic in Game 7 of their first-round series. They did so after overcoming an 18-point first-half Magic lead, and they were led by Donovan Mitchell, who scored 39 points in the victory, and whose 89 points across the final two games of the series represent the most any Cavalier has ever scored in Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series, including James. In fact, only Allen Iverson's 90 tops Mitchell on that front.

While James' Cleveland legacy is sacred, it must mean quite a bit for the current Cavaliers to get this particular monkey off of their back. In 2022, point guard Darius Garland even acknowledged it. "Our guys want to make our own legacy," Garland said to The Athletic's Jason Lloyd. "It's a new look, a new feel. It's a rebirth in Cleveland. It would mean a lot to all of us."

They took their first major step in doing so on Sunday, and it is a bigger step than any James-less Cavaliers team has taken in three decades. They have a long way to go before they can live up to LeBron, but with their Game 7 victory, Garland, Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Max Strus and Isaac Okoro can at least go down in the history books with Daugherty, Nance, Price, Ehlo and Sanders as Cavaliers starters to get the team to the second round.