The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their hands full against the New York Knicks over the next few weeks. The Knicks finished the season with the league’s fourth-best offensive rating behind stars Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.
The Cavaliers, for their part, weren’t too far off from the Knicks, finishing with the NBA‘s eighth-best offense and top-rated defense. As such, the matchup between a top defense and a strong offense will likely produce no shortage of fireworks.
Paramount to the Cavs advancing will be slowing down Randle, an All-Star who averaged 25.1 points per game and 10.0 rebounds this season in the Big Apple. JB Bickerstaff knows the big man will be a handful in a playoff series.
“I mean, they have some really high-level individual scorers,” Bickerstaff said Thursday at shootaround in Orlando, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “They do have good size and play in the attack area in the paint. Brunson makes it extremely difficult in pick-and-roll. … Randle and his isolation. … So I think there’s different spots on the floor that they can hit you with. And, accepting those challenges, and then defensively, they do a really good job of trying to shrink the floor and protect the paint, so how you figure out how you make them pay.”
But the Cavs may have a slightly easier load against Randle than previously expected. Randle went down with a foot injury at the end of March, though he’s making “steady progress” toward a return, according to the NY Post.
JB Bickerstaff Address Cavs’ Knicks Preparation
The Cavaliers have known for some time that they’d probably see the Knicks in Round One. For several weeks, the East’s top-five playoff seeding was largely cemented, even if the Cavs would have preferred to see the Nets instead of the Knicks.
According to Bickerstaff, the Cavs have been preparing for this matchup for some time.
“You have to start preparing things, and we’re working on booklets and analytic packets and videos and all those things that you have to start with,” Bickerstaff said Saturday. “And we’ve been fortunate to kind of know who our opponent was going to be, so we could delegate that stuff to get us at a good spot when we need to start.”
The Cavs will need all the preparation they can get, considering the team is light on playoff experience.
JB Bickerstaff Not Worried About Cavaliers Experience
Though the Knicks are fairly young, the team features a handful of players that have appeared in the playoffs. Brunson, for instance, helped lead the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals last year.
As for the Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell is the only starter with playoff experience longer than a single series. And none of the starters other than Jarrett Allen and Mitchell have any playoff experience at all.
“I’m confident in our group, period,” Bickerstaff said. “I believe when we’re at our best, we’re a tough out for anybody. We need to make sure we’re aware and tighten up the details and our execution and all those things. And, again, it’s going to be a new test for us. We have guys that are going to be in their first playoff series. So it’s never going to come easy, but I have a lot of confidence in our group.”
The Knicks and Cavaliers will take the floor Saturday night.