Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell reacts after making a 3-point...

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell reacts after making a 3-point basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 29, 2024, in Cleveland. Credit: AP/Ron Schwane

CLEVELAND — Donovan Mitchell is back and not a moment too soon for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland's All-Star guard played Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers after missing 15 of 20 games since the break, first with a bone bruise in his left knee and then a broken nose. The Cavs have missed him badly.

It was the first game action since March 16 for Mitchell, who leads the team with 27.4 points per game.

Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff expects Mitchell's return to have an immediate impact.

“Just that force,” he said. “You'll feel that boost right away.”

Mitchell donned a black mask for the team's morning shootaround to protect his nose. He recently underwent nasal surgery after he was inadvertently hit by teammate Tristan Thompson in a March 19 game.

But Mitchell's bigger issue has been his knee. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection last month and the team had hoped rest would make it better. Mitchell, though, lacked his usual burst when he returned and had to sit again.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives around New Orleans...

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives around New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III (25) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Credit: AP/Matthew Hinton

The Cavs, who have battled injuries all season, are just 3-7 in their past 10 games and have dropped to fourth overall in the Eastern Conference standings. They're trying to hold on to one of the top four spots in order to have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Including the matchup with the Sixers, Cleveland has nine regular-season games remaining — five on the road — before the postseason opens on April 20.

The Cavs are 33-16 this season with Mitchell, 11-13 without him.

Marcus Morris Sr., who signed with Cleveland for the rest of the season on Friday after joining the team on a 10-day contract, is looking forward to playing with Mitchell.

Houston Rockets' Jabari Smith Jr., left, knocks the ball away...

Houston Rockets' Jabari Smith Jr., left, knocks the ball away from Cleveland Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell (45) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Houston. The Rockets won 117-103. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

“That’s one of those guys that you’re happy to have him on your team, and this will be my first game with him,” Morris said. "But to add him to what we already have and getting guys back at the right time, I think it’s a perfect timing for him to get some games under his belt before we make a stretch run.”

Mitchell is also averaging a career highs in rebounds (5.3), assists (6.1) and steals (1.8) in 35.3 minutes.

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