The Cavs will make a lot of noise this season, but they’re not title contenders yet

The Cavs immediately went into rebuild mode when LeBron James left Cleveland to go to Los Angeles to join the Lakers after the 2018 season. In the first two years post-LeBron, the Cavs won 19 games in each of those seasons, and in 2020-21, Cleveland won only 22 games, but along the way, they started to gather assets. They added Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley. Those guys helped lead the Cavs to a 44-38 record last season and a berth in the Play-In Tournament.

However, Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman felt the team needed another piece, and this offseason, they got a big piece when they acquired three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. 

With the addition of Mitchell, the expectations are very high in Cleveland. Some believe this team can compete for a championship, while others believe they’re still a year or two away.

Let’s take a look at the 2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers:

Starters:

At this point, we know at least four of the starters for Cleveland: Garland, Mitchell, Allen, and Mobley. Regarding the small forward spot, it appears that it might be Caris LeVert. Obviously, the backcourt of Garland and Mitchell is going to be explosive. Both Garland (21.7 ppg)and Mitchell(25.9 ppg) averaged over 20 points a contest last season. This season, which is exciting, Cleveland will have two guys that can get their own shot at a high level.

Mobley(15.0 ppg on .508 shooting from the field), who was the Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up last season, says he’s expanded his game on the offensive end, and we all know what he can do defensively(1.67 bpg). In addition, Allen( 16.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg, & 1.3 bpg) is another rim-protector and a guy who played well on both ends to become a first-time All-Star last season.

If LeVert, who was acquired by the Cavs before last season’s trade deadline, is the starter, he’s a guy who had an entire training camp with the team, which should be beneficial. Also, it’s a contract year for LeVert, so he’ll be motivated. If they decide to start Isaac Okoro at the three, they’ll have another solid defender on the court. The key for Okoro, who will get open looks, is being able to hit those open looks, and last season, from Feb. 9-April 10, Okoro was 23-50 (.460) from deep, which was the 10th-best three-point percentage in the NBA over that span. Obviously, he’s not going to shoot it that well from three-point range, but if he gets to the high 30s in terms of three-point percentage, that would be good.

This could be one of the better starting lineups in basketball, and if they’re healthy, it could be terrifying for opposing teams.

Bench:

The Cavs should have a solid bench. Kevin Love(13 ppg and 7.2 rpg) was a 2021-22 Sixth-Man of the Year finalist and should be able to do the same this season. Ricky Rubio is back and hopefully will be available by December. He was a difference-maker before he went down with a torn ACL last season. While Rubio is away, Raul Neto will probably log some of those backup point guard minutes. Armed with a three-year contract extension, Dean Wade will give the team depth at forward spots, and Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens are solid pieces off the bench. Robin Lopez will be the backup center, and he should be an upgrade over what they had last season. 

Coaching:

J.B. Bickerstaff has established himself as a decent coach in the NBA. He has the respect of the players and was a big reason this team improved last season. This season, the pressure will be on Bickerstaff and the Cavs to win, so it should be interesting to see how Bickerstaff handles the team.

Prediction:

The Cavs could be better and still be in the Play-In Tournament. That is how good the Eastern Conference is this season. In no particular order, you have the 76ers, Bucks, Celtics, Heat, Nets, Bulls, Hawks, and Raptors, who all should be good to very good teams this season. However, the Cavs will be very good this season, but they are still young.

Last season, they won 44 games, and the addition of Mitchell should will improve that number, but if the first-round matchup is not favorable, which is very possible in the East, Cleveland could go out in the first round.

In the end, the Cavs win 52 games and lose in the second round of the playoffs. This team is still a year or two away from being true title contenders, but the future is bright in the Land. 

Cavs’ Mitchell: ‘On paper, we look scary’

On Wednesday, the Cavs’ newest guard Donovan Mitchell was introduced to the Cleveland media at a press conference at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Cleveland recently acquired the 26-year-old from the Utah Jazz In exchange for Collin Sexton (via sign and trade), Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three future unprotected first-round draft picks (2025, 2027, 2029), and also agreeing to swap picks in 2026 and 2028.

It was rumored for weeks that the three-time All-Star was going to get moved, and many, including Mitchell, who is a New York native, thought it was going to be the Knicks, but things broke down, the Cavs swooped in, and he’s happy to be in Cleveland. 

“I thought for sure I was going back home,” he said. I’m not gonna lie about that, but when I found out where I was headed, who I was playing with; the group, the team, the coaching staff. I couldn’t be more happier to be here.”

On paper, with the addition of Mitchell, to go along with what they have with All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen and an ascending player in Evan Mobley, some believe the Cavs are championship contenders. Mitchell thinks the Cavs look scary, but they still have to prove it in the end.

“On paper, we look scary,” he said. “But at the end of the day it comes down to what we do in the gym. We had a good run today and we’ve got to continue to have good work, so I can’t sit here and tell you, ‘Yes, we’re a championship team.’ We have to go out there and prove it every night.”

Despite all the championship talk in Cleveland, Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman says it’s not contention or bust for the Cavs.

“We’re super young,” Altman said. “And the timeline fits to bring in this caliber of player with this group, and let’s rock; let’s rock out. I’m excited to see what it looks like, but there’s a runway here, and I don’t want everyone to think that this year we have to be contention or bust. That’s not what this is.”

It’s too early to say whether or not the Cavs are championship contenders, but it’s probably safe to say they are one of the better teams in the East. However, to Altman’s point, this is a young team, and some of these players are not finished products, so a championship in this upcoming season might be too lofty, but in my Kevin Garnett voice,

“Anything is possible!!!”

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on hiring of Walton: ‘I’m excited for our players to have another valuable resource to work with on the court’

The Cleveland Cavaliers have hired Luke Walton as an Assistant Coach, the team announced Tuesday.

The 42-year-old Walton coached the Kings for three seasons before getting fired last November. Before that, he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers from 2016 to 2019.

“We are very excited to add someone of Luke’s caliber and championship DNA to our coaching staff,” said Altman via team statement. “His on-court experiences as a head coach, assistant coach and player in this league fit seamlessly into J.B.’s existing coaching staff. Luke is someone who truly embraces player development, a team-first mentality, and a history of creating winning basketball habits. We welcome Luke, his wife Bre and the entire Walton family back to Northeast Ohio.”

Additionally, Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors for two campaigns (2014-15, 2015-16), reaching the NBA Finals both years and winning the NBA Championship in 2015. Walton also received Western Conference Coach of the Month honors (October/November 2015) while serving as interim head coach in Steve Kerr’s absence and leading Golden State to a 39-4 start in 2015-16, including winning the first 24 games, an NBA record.

“It’s rare when you can strengthen your staff with someone of similar experiences and a passion for the game of basketball,” said Bickerstaff said via team statement. “Luke is someone who identifies with our five core values as a coach, but also traits he was recognized for as a player, both in college and the NBA. I’m excited for our players to have another valuable resource to work with on the court, as we continue doing things the right way for sustainable success.”

Walton enjoyed a 10-year NBA playing career, including his final season in 2012-13 and part of 2011-12 as a member of the Cavaliers. He finished his career appearing in 564 games (138 starts) with the Lakers and Cavaliers while averaging 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 17.2 minutes per contest.

Cavs’ Altman on team: ‘They captivated the city and put the league on notice’

On Tuesday, Cleveland Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman addressed the media at Cleveland Clinic Courts. The Cavs’ season ended at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Friday night as they fell to the Hawks in the Play-In Tournament.

“I’m still a little heartsick, to be honest with you,” Altman said about not making the playoffs. “It’s hard to process the season ending the way it did.”

J.B. Bickerstaff helped Cleveland improve by 22 wins from a year ago and finished the season 44-38, but despite the success, they fell short of the playoffs.

However, according to Atman, the Cavs have caught the attention of teams around the league.

“They captivated the city and put the league on notice, forced the league to put us on a national TV game because they had to, and more of that will come.”

Altman felt this season was a success, but Cleveland does have some questions, and one of the biggest questions is what will happen with Collin Sexton, who missed 71 games with a torn meniscus and can become a restricted free agent at season’s end if the Cavs extend a qualifying offer of $7.2 million.

The 23-year-old Sexton will probably be back in Cleveland next season based on what Altman said today.

“He, in a lot of ways, was the start of not only the rebuild, but the culture that we have in place now,” Altman said. “He’s enormously important to us. He’s been enormously important to us. To lose him, you can see throughout the year why we missed him, how we missed him, so we owe Collin a great deal of gratitude for the work he’s put in and continues to put in, (he) an important part of this team.”

Caris LeVert came over from the Pacers in a trade back in February. Altman believes both LeVert and Sexton, who have a similar skillset and play the same position, can thrive together in Cleveland.

“Yes, there’s a place for that level of talent, especially with the character that they bring and the fact that both really love it here,” Altman said.

It’s one thing to be a surprise team, but it’s another thing to win when the expectations are high, so the challenge for Altman and the players is to be even better next season.

“We’re not going to surprise teams next year,” Altman said. “I think we were two games out of being in sixth place. So like, it’s that close. We don’t want to lose grasp of what got us here, which is the hard work in the summer. We haven’t accomplished anything yet, so how do we keep that hunger, that humbleness, and attack this offseason?”

From top to bottom, the Eastern Conference will be tough next season, and Cleveland could be better next season and still be fighting to make the playoffs. They have a young, talented core.Obviously, they have three guys they can build around in All-Stars, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley.

In addition, they will have a lottery pick, so the future is very bright. However, sometimes that next step is the hardest step, and the Cavs are hoping to take that next step next season.

Cavs fight but fall short in Brooklyn

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a big one Friday night in Brooklyn against the Nets. The winner of this game would have possession of the seventh seed in the East.

Brooklyn led by as many as 17 points, but Cleveland did take their first lead in the third. However, Brooklyn dominated the fourth and defeated the Cavs 118-107 at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant had a game-high 36 points; Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown added 18 points apiece; Brown also added 10 rebounds. All five of Brooklyn’s starters scored in double figures.

Cleveland(43-38) has now lost three straight and dropped to eighth in the East, while the Nets(43-38) have won three straight. Brooklyn won the season series(3-1) over the Cavs, which means they are the seventh seed.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Nets:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland played like a superstar against Brooklyn. He shot 12/24 from the field, including three threes, and finished with 31 points in 41 minutes of action. The All-Star scored 21 of those 31 points in the second and third quarters. He probably should have played the whole second half, but we’ll get to that later.

-Evan Mobley was back after missing five games with a sprained ankle, and he picked up where he left off. The rookie had 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He also became the eighth Cavs rookie to go over 1000 points in a season. Mobley plays winning basketball, and everything he does contributes to winning.

-Lamar Stevens did not fill up the box score as he only had two points on 1/5 shooting from the field to go along with two rebounds, but he did defend his butt off in the third quarter when the Cavs were making their run. Kevin Durant still got his points; however, late in the third, he forced two Durant turnovers. It wasn’t enough, but give Stevens credit.

Second and Third Quarters: Cleveland trailed 34-19 after the first quarter and looked dead in the water. However, in the second quarter, things got better. Garland had 10 points in the quarter; Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 35-28 and trailed 62-54 at the break.

In the third, things got even better for the Cavs. Brooklyn led 70-60 with just under ten minutes left in the quarter, but Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 28-13 the rest of the third and led by as many as seven. Garland again was big time as he had 11 points in the quarter. The Cavs outscored Brooklyn 34-21 in the third and took an 88-83 lead into the fourth.

Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 69-49 in the second and third quarters.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Quarter: Cleveland did not get the start they wanted. Brooklyn shot 57% from the field, including 4/8 from deep. On the other hand, Cleveland shot 40% from the floor, including 0/7 from downtown. The Cavs had issues stopping Durant, who had 16 points in the quarter. Brooklyn took their largest lead of the game at 34-17 and led 34-19 after one. 

Second Chance Points: Brooklyn is a great offensive team. They are tough to stop, but they become even harder to control when you give them second and third chances. The Nets outrebounded the Cavs 45-31, and Brooklyn had 25-second chance points Friday night, which is a lot. Rebounding is a big part of defense, and Cleveland had difficulty closing the possessions with a rebound. 

Fourth Quarter: Cleveland had all the momentum going into the fourth, but the Nets have firepower for days, and it’s hard to keep them from scoring. Brooklyn went on a 10-4 run to start the fourth to take the lead for good. The Nets led by as many as 15 points in the fourth. The Cavs appeared to run out of gas in the fourth as the Nets outscored them 35-19 in the quarter.

The first 3:09 of the Fourth: You hate to be critical of anybody in this one, but Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff may have made a mistake by resting Garland early in the fourth. Garland was rolling, and so was the team while he was on the court. He did play the whole second and third quarters; however, Garland did get rest at halftime and before the start of the fourth. The Cavs should have ridden its young star to the end. Brooklyn took the lead back while Garland was on the bench and never relinquished it.

Bottom Line:

Cleveland battled in this one, and they played their hearts out, but Brooklyn is Brooklyn, so winning this game would be tough. The Cavs have to start better to beat a team of Brooklyn’s caliber.

Fortunately, the eighth-seeded Cavs got a little help as the Hawks fell to the Heat, which allowed Cleveland to hold the eighth seed and keep the eighth seed if they beat the Bucks in the season finale. The Cavs can still get the seventh seed, but they need to win and Brooklyn to lose to the Pacers at home, which is highly unlikely.

So, Cleveland could be returning to Brooklyn next Tuesday for the 7-8 game in the Play-In Tournament. 

However, unfortunately, Cleveland could fall to the 10th seed if they lose to the Bucks, and Charlotte(Wizards), Atlanta(@Rockets), and Brooklyn(Pacers) win their final game, which would be disastrous.

Getting the eighth seed won’t be easy for Cleveland as the Bucks are still fighting for the second seed in the East, so Sunday’s game should be very interesting.

Remember, the seventh and eighth seeds have two games to win one, while the ninth and tenth seeded teams have to win twice to make the playoffs.

Quotes:

“I’m proud of the way they played and proud of the effort that they played with, the way they kept coming back and staying in the game,” Bickerstaff said after the game.

What’s Next:

The Cavs return home to battle the Bucks in the regular-season finale.

 Best of the Rest:

-Lauri Markkanen had 17 points; Caris LeVert added 16, and Kevin Love had 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

-Andre Drummond had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Brooklyn.

-Cavs shot 8/27 from three-point range.

Listen below as the Garland and Drummond react to loss to Brooklyn:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Magic: ‘We didn’t show the fight that we needed to show’

The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Orlando to battle the Magic Tuesday night. Coming into this game, Cleveland still had an outside shot of being one of the top six teams in the East.

The Cavs trailed by 10 in the fourth but made a furious rally and had a chance to tie, but Lauri Markkanen missed a three with 48.8 seconds to go, and the Magic defeated the Cavs 120-115 at Amway Center.

Mo Bamba led the way for the Magic with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks; Orlando had eight players in double figures.

Cleveland(43-37) is now locked into the Play-In Tournament and has last two straight and seven of their last nine, while the Magic(21-59) snapped a six-game losing streak.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Magic.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland had game-highs of 27 points and 10 assists, to go along with six rebounds and two steals.

-Lauri Markkanen added 25 points, including a season-high-tying six threes. He also added two blocks.

-Kevin Love had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, and he made a little history as he moved into 9th on Cavs’ all-time scoring list, surpassing Larry Nance Sr. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Defense: What was a strength for this team earlier in the season is now a liability. They allowed the Magic, who are last in points per game, to score 120 points on 51% shooting from the floor, including 46%(16-35) from deep. Unacceptable!!

Third Quarter: After finishing the second quarter on a 7-0 run, the Cavs led 61-59 at halftime. With the game tied at 69 with just under eight minutes in the quarter, Orlando went on an 11-4 run to take their largest lead in the third quarter at 80-73. The Magic shot 52% in the quarter and outscored the Cavs 32-25 to take a 91-86 lead into the fourth.

Second Chance Points: The Cavs allowed the Magic to have success on the offensive glass. Orland had 20-second chance points Tuesday night.

Bottom Line:

If we had said at the beginning of the season that the Cavs would make the Play-In Tournament, most Cavs fans would have signed up for that. However, after the great start this team had, being in the Play-In Tournament is a disappointment.

This loss was unacceptable, inexcusable, and just downright bad! You can’t lose to the Magic when you have so much at stake. We know the Cavs are banged up, but it’s not like they lost to the Suns or Heat; they lost to the Magic.

The seventh-seeded Cavs now must try to stay at seven, so if necessary, they’ll have two home games to win one in the Play-In Tournament, but it won’t be easy.

Cleveland has to play the eighth-seeded Nets(41-38) in Brooklyn Friday night. If the Nets defeat the Knicks Wednesday night, they would be one game behind the Cavs and could tie Cleveland with a win Friday night. In addition, Brooklyn, who leads the season series 2-1, would hold the tiebreaker with a victory.

Furthermore, Cleveland finishes the season at home against the Bucks, who probably will have something to play for, so that won’t be easy.

Also, the ninth-seeded Hawks(41-38) are also 1.5 games behind the Cavs, and the Hawks, like the Nets, play Wednesday night as they host the Wizards. Atlanta won the season series from the Cavs and would hold the tiebreaker if those two teams ended up tied in the standings.

Again, this was a bad loss!!

Quotes:

“Tonight, time and time again, they outworked us,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Give them credit, but it’s disappointing. We didn’t get the job done. We didn’t show the fight that we needed to show.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland heads to Brooklyn to battle the Nets Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

-The Cavs had six players in double figures.

-Moses Brown had his third double-double in four games as he had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

-Ignas Brazdeikis had 20 points for the Magic off the bench. Every player that came off Orlando’s bench scored in double figures.

Bickerstaff fined $15,000 for criticizing officiating after loss to 76ers

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, the league announced Monday night. 

After the Cavs fell to the 76ers 112-108 Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Bickerstaff was unhappy about Joel Embiid and James Harden combining for 32 of the team’s 42 free throw attempts.

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “We deserved to win it.”

With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds left in the game. Bickerstaff thought Garland was fouled on his drive to the basket. 

“Darius was fouled,” Bickerstaff said. “He did his job and got to a spot and got fouled. No whistle.”

According to the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Report, Bickerstaff was right.

The league said the following:

“While defending his drive to the basket and shot attempt, Embiid (PHI) reaches across Garland (CLE) and makes contact to his left arm.”

Cleveland(43-36) returns to action Tuesday night as they travel to Orlando to face the Magic(20-59).

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to 76ers: ‘That game was taken from us’

This season, the Cavaliers have not been able to solve the riddle that is the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first three meetings between these two teams, Cleveland was 0-3.

The Cavs had one final chance to defeat the 76ers Sunday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. However, just like the previous three meetings, they could not get it done. Joel Embiid had 44 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks, and James Harden recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists as the 76ers defeated the Cavs 112-108 to sweep the season=series.

Cleveland(43-36) has now lost six of eight; the 76ers(48-30) have won two straight and clinched a playoff berth with the win.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the 76ers:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland led the Cavs with a team-high 23 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Garland recorded his 40th 20-plus point game this season. Interestingly enough, the All-Star scored 20-plus points 26 times in the first two seasons of his career. Garland is truly having a special season.

-Lamar Stevens has found his groove, and he continues to be a key contributor on both ends of the court. Stevens had 18 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Great effort from Stevens!

-Caris LeVert is looking more and more comfortable each game, and he had 18 points, three rebounds, and seven assists. Obviously, Cleveland will need LeVert’s ability to get to the basket and score in the playoffs, which he did Sunday night.

Second Quarter:  Cleveland led 23-21 after the first quarter. The Cavs started the second quarter on a 14-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 37-25. They shot 55% from the field, including 67% from three-point range. Stevens led the way with seven points in the quarter. Ultimately, the Cavs led 55-49 at halftime.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: The Cavs had some momentum coming into the third, but Embiid(14 points) and Tyrese Maxey(eight points) started attacking and combined for 22 of Philly’s 32 points in the quarter. The 76ers also picked things up defensively as the Cavs shot 36% from the field, including 25%(2/8) from downtown. Philly, who shot 56% from the field, including 5/6 from deep, outscored Cleveland 32-25 in the quarter. The 76ers led 81-80 after three.

Rebounding: Cleveland was outrebounded 50-41 by the 76ers, and Philadelphia had 16 second-chance points. The 76ers shot only 41% from the floor, but they did a great job on the glass.

Playing defense without fouling: Embiid(17/20) and Harden(11/12) combined for 32 of the 76ers’ 42 free throw attempts. You can argue that it should go both ways, but in reality, these two just know how to create contact. Maybe you can blame the officials, who knows, but you have to find a way to defend these two without fouling. Cleveland did have 31 free throw attempts Sunday night, and while Philly did have 42 attempts, four of them came due to intentional fouls by the Cavs late in the game, so free throw disparity was not that drastic.

Late-game execution: With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds in the game. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes Garland was fouled on his drive, but there was no call. 

Cleveland trailed by three with 07.2 seconds to go, but Love’s inbound pass was stolen by Matisse Thybulle, which ended in a Tobias Harris dunk that sealed the game. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland played their heart out against Philadelphia. All four matchups between these two teams have felt like the playoffs, and while Philly swept the season series, these games were very competitive and a lot of fun. 

The Cavs have played well in their last two games, which is the most important thing at this point of the season. Hopefully, they can get Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen back for the playoffs.

With the Cavs now 2.5 games behind the Bulls and Raptors for one of the top six spots in the East, and only three games to play, Cleveland might think about resting some guys before the start of the Play-in Tournament. However, J.B. Bickerstaff did say postgame that was not the plan, which is understandable. There’s still meaningful basketball left as the Cavs want to get at least the seventh seed.

The Cavs are 1.5 games up on the eighth-seeded Hawks(41-37) and 2.5 games up on the ninth-seeded Hornets(40-38) and the tenth seed, the Nets(40-38).

Quotes:

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said. “We deserved to win it.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland goes to Orlando to play the Magic Tuesday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Lauri Markkanen had 16 points, including four threes and seven rebounds. Kevin Love added 12 points off the bench.

-Rajon Rondo returned after missing 11 games with an ankle injury. He had six points in 14 minutes of action.

-Maxey and Harris had 11 points apiece for the 76ers.

-According to StatMuse, Embiid joins Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Ewing as the only players with multiple 40-point/15 rebound/5 block games since 1990.

Listen below as Bickerstaff talks loss to Cavs and more:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘We’re a tough out for anybody’

The Cavs have had a lot of success at Madison Square Garden in recent years. Coming into Saturday’s showdown in New York against the Knicks, Cleveland was 12-2 in their last 14 games at MSG.

Cleveland’s dominance in NYC continued. They led from start to finish and defeated the Knicks 119-101. The Cavs(3-0) swept the season series with the win.

The Cavs(43-35), who had seven players in double figures, including all five starters, snap a two-game losing streak, while the Knicks(34-44) have lost two straight.

The Great for the Cavs:

Double-Double DG: Darius Garland had 11 double-doubles in the month of March, and he kept up his double-double ways in April as he had 24 points, including five threes and 13 assists against the Knicks. According to StatMuse, it’s his third game with 20-plus points, 10-plus assists, and five-plus threes this season, which ties Mark Price for the most in team history.

-Moses Brown recorded a double-double for the second consecutive game as he had 16 points and 13 rebounds. In his last three starts, Brown is averaging 14.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per contest. You gotta love his activity around the basket, which was rewarded as he won the “Junkyard Dog” award.

-Caris LeVert had 19 points, including three threes, six rebounds, and six assists Saturday. 

-Isaac Okoro was active and accurate as he had 16 points on 7/8 shooting from the floor.

-First Quarter: With just under five minutes left and the game tied at 20, Cleveland went on an 18-8 run to take their largest first-quarter lead at 38-28. Garland led the way with 10 points in the quarter. Cleveland shot 62% from the floor, including 5/5 from downtown. The Cavs led 39-30 after one, and for the fourth time this season, Cleveland scored 39-plus points in the first quarter.

-Third Quarter: The Cavs had a 68-60 halftime lead and took complete control in the third. After New York cut the lead to 76-71 with just under eight minutes in the third, Cleveland went on a 26-14 run to close the quarter and took a 102-85 lead into the fourth. The Cavs were red-hot from the field in the third as they shot 64%, including 57%(4/7) from three-point range.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

There were no issues today. Check back tomorrow night!

Bottom Line:

Cleveland responded well after getting blown out by the Hawks Thursday night. They had excellent ball movement and had great energy against the Knicks. It’s just the Knicks, who were without their leading scorer Julius Randle(knee), but a win is a win, especially when you had lost five of six coming into this game.

Since being one of the top six teams in the East seems out of reach, the Cavs want to make sure they stay at the seventh spot in the East, so if necessary, they’ll have two home games in the Play-In Tournament.

Remember, seeds seven and eight have to win once in the tournament to make the playoffs, while seeds nine and ten have to win twice.

As for the standings, with four games left, the seventh-seeded Cavs are two games up on the eighth seed, the Atlanta Hawks(41-37), and three games up on the ninth-seeded Hornets(40-38) and the tenth-seeded Nets(40-38). Cleveland is two games behind the sixth seed, the Chicago Bulls(45-33), and three games behind the fifth-seeded Raptors(45-32).

Quotes:

“We’re a tough out for anybody,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about his team.

What’s Next:

Cleveland returns home Sunday night to face the Philadelphia 76ers.

Best of the Rest:

-Obi Toppin led the Knicks with a career-high 20 points; Evan Fournier added 19 points.

-Kevin Love had 15 points off the bench, and Lauri Markkanen and Cedi Osman chipped in with 10 points apiece.

-Evan Mobley(ankle) missed his third straight game.

Watch below as Kevin Love reacts to win over Knicks:

Time for the Cavs to focus on Play-In Tournament

The Cavs headed to Atlanta to battle the Hawks Thursday night in the second game of a back-to-back.

Cleveland lost to the Mavericks 120-112 Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Atlanta dominated and led from wire to wire and defeated the Cavs 131-107 at State Farm Arena.

Trae Young had a game-high 30 points and nine assists; Kevin Huerter had 23 points. The Hawks had six players in double figures.

Cedi Osman led the Cavs with 21 points off the bench.

Cleveland(42-35) dropped their second straight, while the Hawks(40-37) have won four straight and five of their last six.

Here is the Great, the Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Hawks.

The Great for the Cavs:

You lose by 24 points and trail from start to finish; there’s really nothing extraordinary, but let’s show some love to Moses Brown, who signed a two-way contract with the Cavs earlier in the day. Brown had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

EVERYTHING!!

The Cavs’ starting forwards of Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen combined for 17 points on 7/17 shooting from the floor. LeVert had nine points, while Markkanen had eight. They needed more from these two guys. 

Turnovers: The Cavs had 15 turnovers in their loss to Dallas, and they came back and committed 14 more turnovers Thursday night, which led to 24 points for the Hawks. 

Three-Point Shooting: Cleveland did not guard the three very well, and they could not make many threes either. The Cavs were 7/30 from three-point range. Both Dylan Windler(0/5 3-PT FG) and Kevin Love(2-7) miss five threes apiece. Conversely, the Hawks made 17 threes.

Defense: For the second consecutive night, Cleveland gave up 100 points after three quarters. Against Dallas on Wednesday night, they allowed 120 points in regulation. Thursday night, Cleveland gave up 131 points, which is unacceptable, but again, not surprising when two of your best defensive bigs(Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley) are sitting in street clothes. The Hawks shot 50% from the floor.

Third Quarter: Against the Mavs Wednesday night, the Cavs were outscored 39-22, and Thursday night versus the Hawks, their third-quarter woes continued as they were outscored 34-22 in the quarter. The Hawks shot 55% from the floor in the quarter and held the Cavs to 32% shooting from the field, including 1/3 from downtown. Atlanta led by 13 at halftime and had a 100-75 lead after three quarters. 

Bottom Line:

This was a bad performance for the Cavs, but these games happen in the NBA. Cleveland is a tired, depleted team who, at this point, is limping to the finish line. Unfortunately, they’ll have four games in five nights, so there’s no rest for the weary.

The way they’re playing right now, the Cavs may not win another game in the regular season. However, maybe this loss could wake them up.

With fives games left, they trail the fifth-seeded Bulls(45-32) by three games and the sixth-seeded Raptors(44-32) by 2 1/2 games, so that situation looks bleak.

It’s all about the Play-In Tournament for the Cavs. If they stay at the seventh or eighth seed, Cleveland would have two opportunities to win one game to make the playoffs, which is very doable, especially when you consider that they could have two home games(if necessary) in this tournament.

Currently, the seventh-seeded Cavs have a two-game lead over Brooklyn(40-37), Charlotte(40-37), and the Hawks(40-37), so they are in decent shape. 

At the end of the day, the Cavs just need to start playing better!

What’s Next:

Cleveland heads to New York City to battle the Knicks Saturday night.

Best of the Rest:

Earlier in the day, the Cavs announced that they had converted the contract of guard RJ Nembhard to a standard NBA contract.

The 23-year-old Nembhard has appeared in 13 games this season for the Cavaliers as well as 13 games (12 starts) with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers’ exclusively-owned and operated NBA G League team. With the Charge, Nembhard averaged 22.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 37.7 minutes. Nembhard went undrafted in 2021 after playing four seasons at Texas Christian University.

-Darius Garland had 18 points and eight assists against the Hawks. The All-Star recorded his 171st assists in the month of March, which is a team record.

Listen below as Osman reacts to loss to Hawks: