“But Sunday night didn’t start that way,” The Athletic’s Kelsey Russo wrote. “As the first quarter against the Raptors got underway, the Cavs were getting outworked and outplayed. Toronto took advantage of Cleveland’s seven turnovers, and crushed the Cavs on the glass, outrebounding them 17-9. The Cavs ended the quarter leading by one point, 35-34. That’s when Kevin Love spoke up to provide his veteran perspective.
“‘I tried to kind of calm everybody down and say something, and (Bickerstaff) stepped in,’ Love said. ‘I’m K-Love, I’d like to be the savvy veteran, the guy on the team that has a big voice, a guy that’s kind of seen it all and done it all in some aspects. But he had to tell me that I was wrong, and I had to take that on the chin. But that’s how it is. Guys one through 15, 16, 17, whoever’s that next man up, he’s going to let ‘em know how he feels, and we’ve got to respect that. But the thing is, he meets us halfway with respect, and I think that’s a beautiful thing, in life, but also in coaching.’”
The Cavs responded after the first quarter, going on to beat the Raptors 144-99 to improve to 20-13 on the season.
Bickerstaff’s willingness to be honest with his players has been important for the Cavs this season. The team has taken a major leap and looks to be an actual contender in the Eastern Conference.
“That accountability factor, level of communication and the ability to have tough conversations when necessary are attributes that stand out to Love about Bickerstaff,” Russo wrote. “And they are characteristics that have allowed the Cavaliers head coach to build a solid foundation and sustainable program in Cleveland.”
Bickerstaff and the Cavs still have a long way to go, as the team is still not even at the halfway point of the 2021-22 season. Still, the Cavaliers have shown resilience this year, especially after losing Collin Sexton for the season.
The Cavs will look to pick up another win on Tuesday when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans.