If Friday night was any indication, the Cleveland Cavaliers are likely in for a doozy of a first-round playoff series.
The Cavs hosted the New York Knicks and were dealt a 130-116 loss. Following the contest, Cavs star Donovan Mitchell discussed how the game was an eye-opening experience for some Cavs players.
New York allowed just 44 points in the second half, and in Mitchell’s opinion, the referees of the game started calling it like a playoff matchup.
“I think the refs started calling it like it was a playoff game,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s something that some of the guys have to just get used to at the end of the day. You can hit people, you can do different things, you can hold different areas. There’s certain things you just can’t teach and that’s one of them. I think that comes with the experience. I think it opened some of our guys’ eyes to the level of physicality, the level of every possession.”
The Knicks may have benefited from the more lax approach to calling fouls. Though the Cavs scored 47 points in the first quarter alone, the Knicks defense clamped down substantially by the end of the game. In the fourth quarter, the Cavs managed to score just 14 points total.
While it’s surely disappointing for the Cavs to lose by double digits to a team that they seem destined to face in the playoffs, it is a great sign that Mitchell is using the loss as a teachable moment.
As a team leader with ample playoff experience, Mitchell is definitely trying to open the eyes of players like Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and others to how the playoffs are going to feel different from the regular season.
Based on Mitchell’s own words, it seems clear that he has every intention of learning as much as he possibly can from the game.
“Probably see these guys in two weeks,” Mitchell said of the Knicks. “This would be a good film session for us. Get in there, watch it, figure it out, get better at it. That’s all you can do.”
With Friday’s loss in the books, the Cavs now have just four games left on their regular season schedule. They can definitely feel great about all they have accomplished so far this season, but the slate of the regular season is about to be washed clean and replaced by the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Though the Cavs are a young team, they certainly have the talent to make some noise. Unless something fairly dramatic takes place, the Cavs and Knicks will face off in the first round. It seems quite clear that it’s going to be a tough test for Cleveland.