Though they boast one of the league’s best group of starters, the Cleveland Cavaliers leave much to be desired from the bench. And on Saturday night, the bench’s woes were on full display against the New York Knicks.
It’s been a problem for much of the season. Cleveland’s bench unit finished 28th in points and 27th in field goal percentage. The Cavs’ bench had the league’s 28th offensive rating, to boot.
Suffice it to say, when Donovan Mitchell & Co. hit the bench, things go off a cliff. And they did once more against the Knicks, who kept Cleveland’s bench to 14 points in the game. Josh Hart, a Knicks reserve wing, finished with 17 points alone.
After the game, JB Bickerstaff was less than impressed with his bench’s performance.
“I mean obviously our bench has to give us a spark, we gotta find a way to manufacture some buckets,” Bickerstaff told reporters. “You know, how do we create for one another and how does our bench support our starting cast? We’ll go back and we’ll take a look at it, you know, but at some point in time, you got to find a way to just put the ball in the basket and I thought, I mean that unit kind of struggled there. I thought Cedi (Osman) was really good, he gave us a good burst and then you know, at the end of the day you can’t give up 17 offensive rebounds.”
Bickerstaff’s lack of reliability on the bench is readily apparent. The Cavs’ starters played the third-most minutes of any starting five this season. On Saturday, only Isaac Okoro failed to see at least 38 minutes of action among the starting five; Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen averaged 42 minutes apiece.
JB Bickerstaff Calls Knicks Loss a ‘Lesson’ for Cavs
Saturday night served as a real wake up call for Cleveland. Aside from Mitchell, who’s played in five playoffs before this season, the Cavs’ starters are light on late-April basketball experience.
Garland, Mobley, and Okoro made their playoff debuts on Saturday. Allen’s last trip to the playoffs resulted in a first-round sweep. But for Bickerstaff, every game is an opportunity to grow and learn.
“Our guys are learning,” Bickerstaff said following the loss. “We play a ton of guys a ton of minutes who are learning what playoff basketball is about. We’ve talked about it. You have to experience it to understand it. This was a lesson. We experienced it and we’ve got to bounce back from it and correct the things we can correct, which I think there was a lot of.”
Let’s hope the lineup is full of Rhodes Scholars ready to soak in the wisdom; the Cavaliers have now lost home-court advantage for the rest of the Conference playoffs.
Darius Garland Praises Donovan Mitchell After Cavs Loss
Though Mobley and Okoro disappointed in their debuts, Garland and Mitchell put on a show. The pair accounted for over half of Cleveland’s 97 points, with Spida notching 38 and Garland netting 17.
After the game, Garland praised his backcourt mate’s performance.
“Donovan’s really good,” Garland said after the game. “We need that the whole series and beyond. I mean, it’s really good for him just to see a couple go through and just get hot like that when we need him. It was a good feeling for all of us, him as well, and everybody in the building to see a couple go through from him, get the energy back up in the building. And on the defensive end, I think he was great. A lot of effort.”
The Cavs are back in action on Tuesday night.