Chances are, the Cleveland Cavaliers would be feeling quite pleased with themselves had they nearly pulled off a last-second comeback over the Boston Celtics this week.
Cleveland entered the contests seemingly owning Boston’s number. Coming into the game, the Cavaliers were 2-0 against one of the NBA‘s undisputed powerhouses, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the Lake Erie club could hang with Jayson Tatum & Co. come playoff time.
Even though Boston came away with the victory, head coach JB Bickerstaff wasn’t unhappy with his team’s performance. Ultimately, he boiled the game down to the classic “their shots went in and ours didn’t” defense.
“It’s funny what this league comes down to, but we had similar looks on both ends,” Bickerstaff said, per Tommy Wild of si.com. “We had a couple of corner threes that didn’t go in and fall for us, they had a couple that did and I thought the tide kind of turned at that point. Again, they’re a really good basketball team, and credit to our guys for continuing to fight and coming back.”
It’s not the last time that Boston could see Cleveland. For starters, the two meet again on Monday. But with both teams in the top four of the Eastern Conference, it’s entirely possible that the Cavs and Celtics meet during the playoffs.
Bickerstaff Sounds Off on Cavs’ Playoff Rotation
And if the Celtics and Cavaliers do square off in April or May, the latter might look a little different.
For starters, the Cavs recently added Sam Merrill to the fold, filling the empty roster spot opened by Kevin Love’s buyout last month.
But Merrill will also be fighting for playing time during a period in which everyone outside the starting five is looking to cement their status in the team’s playoff rotation.
“Eight, nine will probably be the most,” Bickerstaff told cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor when asked how many players will make up the Cavs’ postseason rotation.
While the familiar names — Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland — won’t go anywhere, the same can hardly be said for the rest of the Cavaliers’ rotation.
“It could depend on our opponent and what we need in the moment. Four of the five starters I think are going to end up playing heavy minutes. So now we’re just trying to piece the guys around them that night to fit the matchups best,” Bickerstaff concluded.
Danny Green Addresses ‘Hostile Environments’
The Cavaliers are also attempting to do something no previous Cavs team has accomplished this decade: go to the playoffs without LeBron James on the roster.
After years spent wandering the wilderness, the Cavs have an intriguing young core that is one of just three squads in the league to boast a top-ten offense and defense.
Recent signing Danny Green hinted at what awaits this young and inexperienced Cavaliers team come playoff time.
“Hostile environments. Every play, every possession is going to be intense,” Green explained.
According to Green, the only thing to do is enjoy the ride.
“You’ve got to embrace it, lose yourself in the moment, lose yourself in the game,” Green explained. “At the same time, be on your P’s and Q’s, execute the best you can and doing your job. Not letting yourself down, your teammates down. We’re going to expect the most out of each other. Just making sure that everybody can embrace the moment and be ready for a hostile environment.”