Evaluating the Cavs post All-Star break, with hopes set on the playoffs

CLEVELAND — As Darius Garland caught a cross from Caris LeVert in transition, he dribbled down the courtroom, jumped and obtained simply above the rim to dunk the ball. As he let go of the rim and got here again all the way down to the courtroom, Garland set free a yell in celebration and high-fived LeVert as they each walked again to the bench.

Sunday’s 118-93 win over the Toronto Raptors was simply what the Cavaliers wanted. They ended a three-game shedding streak extending again to the loss to the 76ers earlier than the All-Star break. It additionally helped them visualize what they face down the stretch of the season. and what has been the matter of quite a few conversations.

“We had conversations like we at all times do,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff stated. “This isn’t simply after we’re in the fitness center collectively — textual content messages, conversations about the significance of what’s in entrance of us — and this was an enormous sport for us simply to get ourselves again on monitor and get our toes below us, extra so the second a part of that back-to-back we knew we’d be examined. Thought we executed the sport correctly offensively and took benefit of the place we had our strengths.”


The Cavs have simply 18 video games left in the common season. And so they sit fourth in the Jap Convention with a 39-25 report.

The video games following the All-Star break are vital as the Cavs attempt to make the playoffs for the first time with out LeBron James since 1998. Their opponents will carry a distinct degree of depth down the stretch.

“It at all times appears that after the All-Star break, there’s a ramp up in depth, and clearly the significance of what it looks like every sport is,” Bickerstaff stated at Wednesday’s follow. “We attempt to preach {that a} sport in December is simply as vital as a sport in February, March, April. However once you see the end, and also you see the place the groups are and what they’re combating for, it simply appears to be a bit of extra actual. So, the expectation is for everyone that the depth ramps up a bit of bit and the competitors degree raises as effectively.”

However there’s additionally the steadiness of remembering the greater image. Bickerstaff stated the gamers perceive the small moments and particular person video games and the way they issue into that greater image. Their focus is on how they are often at their peak as usually as potential.

The Cavs have centered on enjoying to their strengths. They know their id is constructed round their protection — as they demonstrated towards the Raptors their dominance on the defensive finish of the flooring — and have the third-best defensive score in the league at 109.6. They are often dominant in the paint and defend the rim with the assist of their bigs Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. And so they have a dynamic backcourt of Garland and Donovan Mitchell, who’re capable of orchestrate their offense and discover and create pictures.

The Cavs have had three totally different showings in the first three video games following the All-Star break. In the first sport, a 115-109 loss to the Nuggets, they performed a hard-fought sport towards the league’s second-best offensive group.

Then, 24 hours later, the Cavs confronted the Atlanta Hawks, however Cleveland was not itself. They struggled on the defensive finish and missed quite a few pictures. The Cavs had their worst defensive first half of the season after they gave up 81 factors to Atlanta. They have been forthcoming about the end result, acknowledging that they didn’t present up the manner they need to have.

“You weigh the elements of it as effectively,” Bickerstaff stated. “You play an emotional, intense sport. You spend a ton of power that evening towards Denver. You fly to Atlanta, and also you landed round two o’clock in the morning. You’re asleep by possibly three, 3:30. And then you definately play towards a group that looks like they’ve one thing further to show and further motivation. So there was loads of circumstances round it, I assumed, impacted that sport. I don’t waver in my perception in these guys. I don’t waver in my perception of what they’re able to and what their needs are. So I wash that away fairly shortly.”

THE ENERGY IS ELECTRIC. 🔋@dariusgarland22 | #LetEmKnow

— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 27, 2023

Heading into Sunday’s sport earlier that morning, Bickerstaff had a dialog with Mitchell about main and setting the tone. “He stated he obtained me,” Bickerstaff stated. Hours later, Mitchell turned in a 35-point efficiency, with 4 assists, six rebounds, three steals and a block. He made eight 3s.

The timing was essential.


“We wanted this one,” Mitchell stated. “We wanted this one for a lot of totally different causes and setting the tone early. I believe the largest factor was only for myself attempting to be a frontrunner in that manner, by instance. Not likely — I lead by voice — however I believe tonight was simply sort of main it.”

Not solely was Mitchell’s skill to take over vital. Bickerstaff famous that the Cavs knew their opponent, understood the physicality of the sport, exceeded that degree of physicality and performed collectively. They carried out the sport plan collectively. There have been totally different components that Bickerstaff had seen all season, however he observed all of them on full show Sunday.

Bickerstaff’s perception doesn’t waver due to his excessive degree of belief in the gamers. Not simply in Mitchell, however in his complete group.

“I’m round them each single day,” Bickerstaff stated. “I do know their make-up. I do know their character. I understand how dedicated they’re to at least one one other. And I’m not a fickle particular person. You must work exhausting to earn my belief. And once you earn my belief, like we undergo it collectively. As coaches, like our employees, we’re not the sort of individuals to leap ship. We’re the sort of individuals to barrel down and see how we repair all the pieces. And these dudes have given me too many causes to imagine in them.”

The Cavs have been in the same place final season following the All-Star break. They might have made a push for sixth to remain out of the Play-In Match, however as a result of accidents and different elements, the Cavs struggled to shut out the season as a top-six seed. They fell to the Play-In and misplaced to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta, and noticed their season come to an finish.

They’ve their hopes set as soon as once more for the playoffs, and at fourth in the Jap Convention, are trending in that path.

“I believe all of us really feel it,” Allen stated, evaluating the Cavs to the place they have been a 12 months in the past. “From whether or not it’s from the entrance workplace to from everyone else, all of us really feel that we gave it away final 12 months. For a number of causes. We simply wanna make a comeback this 12 months to point out that we are able to do a far push in the playoffs.”

The main focus now turns to the small particulars that may play a vital position in the playoffs. It’s additionally what Bickerstaff believes separates groups — the understanding of what a mistake or a turnover means. It’s understanding how vital every possession might be and the way to concentrate to the vital particulars with the intention to win that possession.

Cleveland has an attention-grabbing remaining stretch of the common season. They’ve only one set of back-to-back video games left in March. That gives them with follow days and days in between video games. The Cavs are ranked twenty ninth in remaining power of schedule, in line with Tankathon. That would show useful in the remaining video games of the season.

“We must always be capable to reap the benefits of these relaxation days and follow days,” Bickerstaff stated. “So we do take a look at it as, now, there is a chance to have some benefits the place groups are attempting to achieve floor and so they’re enjoying extra video games and extra video games, extra video games, now fatigue units in and people forms of issues.”

That is a part of the season the Cavs have been constructing in the direction of. Their upward trajectory all through the season can repay as they proceed to show and put together for the playoffs.

(Picture of Darius Garland dunking towards the Raptors: David Richard / USA As we speak)

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