It’s finally here. On Saturday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be taking the floor versus the New York Knicks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. It’ll be Cleveland’s first playoff game since 2018, and it’s going to be the Cavaliers’ first time in the postseason without LeBron James on the team since 1998.
In the first round, Cleveland will be taking on New York, as we mentioned, in the No. 4-No. 5 matchup in the Eastern Conference. This could end up being one of the more compelling series’ in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, at first glance.
Both of these teams have star guards, and both have talented frontcourts as well. Time will tell if Julius Randle if/when in action, as he’s been working his way back from an ankle sprain. He was not in action in the Knicks’ win over the Cavs on March 31.
But based on ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting how Randle is targeting a return in Game 1, whether or not Randle is in action on Saturday, he seems likely to be heavily involved in the series. Game 2 is on Tuesday, for what it’s worth.
Generally, though, from a Cavs perspective, it’s apparent the team is amped up and ready to get the postseason underway, and nobody could blame them. This Wine and Gold team had 51 wins in the regular season, and they’re ready to start the league’s second season, if you will, ASAP.
In media availability on Thursday, Darius Garland said the following, about his first experience to come in the playoffs, and how since last year’s Play-In Tournament losses, this is something he’s long looked forward to, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Garland mentioned how it’s been while for this coming over his time with the Cavs as well.
"‘It’s a long time from last year to now, so it’s been always on my mind,” Garland said. ‘It’s good to finally be in a series instead of a play-in. An actual seven-game series, it’s going to be fun. I’ve been waiting for it for four years now. My first time. My first rodeo. I’m pretty excited for it. I know the adjustments are going to be pretty fun, just to see how you can change on the fly. I’m ready for it. I’m prepared for it. Been watching film all this week. We’ll see how it goes.'”"
In addition to Garland’s comments, among others, Cedi Osman, who was a rookie during Cleveland’s last time in the playoffs with LeBron and company, touched on how this Cavs team is “back where we belong,” via Tom Withers of the Associated Press.
The Cavs are rightfully pumped to be in the playoffs. Now it’s time for them to seize the moment.
This Cavaliers squad had an impressive regular season, and they have the makings of a team that, despite their youth in some key spots, could make a deep postseason run. But, they’ll have to prove themselves here in this first round series against the Knicks, and likely would have a tough road from there.
For this Cavs team, Donovan Mitchell will have his share of attention from New York and other teams potentially moving on from there, however, with his abilities, one should be confident he’ll still be able to set the tone. He’s made his presence felt on the big stage, and Garland and others can look for Mitchell to lead as well.
Of course, the playoffs are a different beast, and there could be some hiccups for guys such as Garland and Evan Mobley at times. This is the first time they’ll be in the postseason, and it’s been a while since J.B. Bickerstaff has coached on this stage, too.
All of that said, despite regular season struggles against the Knicks, who took three out of four from the Cavaliers, I have confidence in this Wine and Gold group, and Mitchell is the best player in the series. Jarrett Allen not being active in two of those matchups was meaningful, too, as an aside. He seems ready to roll now, and he was a player that in his two games versus New York this regular season did play especially well, also, and should be poised for a big series.
From here, it’s going to be really exciting to see how this Cavaliers team in the playoffs, where they haven’t been in five years. As now the longest-tenured Cav in Osman emphasized, though, this team is back where they should be, and for the Wine and Gold, it’s time to seize the moment.
It’s not necessarily going to be easy, but with the makeup of this club, the talent of the core, and their stout defense, led by a Defensive Player of the Year finalist in Mobley, these Cavs are capable of doing big things.