Cavs head coach offers optimistic outlook from team’s surprising loss to Knicks in playoffs

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Entering the 2023 NBA postseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by star guard Donovan Mitchell, had expectations of making it past the first round.

The Cavaliers were fresh off a regular season in which they won 51 games, the fourth-most in the Eastern Conference behind only the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. But fast forward to the current day, and it’s clear that the Cavaliers fell short of their postseason expectations.

Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and the New York Knicks eliminated the Cavaliers in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Cleveland split the series’ first two games with New York, but then lost the next three. The Cavaliers scored just 94.2 points per game for the series, a far cry from their regular-season average of 112.3 points per game.

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff recently commented on what he learned from his team’s first-round loss to the Knicks, according to’s Chris Fedor.

“You learn your players in the most intense moments,” Bickerstaff said. “You learn what buttons to push and where guys may need to be assisted. We’re never done. My job is to continue to get better. I hope that is what everybody thinks of themselves and their jobs. None of us know it all. Personally, I learned. Being in those moments, leading as a head coach, there’s experience gained for me as well. I think the overall plan of what we have been building and not straying from that plan is important. We have committed ourselves to young guys, so in the playoffs you commit yourself to those guys because those are the guys that are taking you into the future. Those guys need that experience — and they got it. You play those young guys that need that experience and are part of this core because you know how important that is to the team’s future.”

Bickerstaff, 44, has been the head coach of the Cavaliers since the 2019-20 season. He has coached Cleveland to a 122-125 regular-season record across his four seasons with the franchise.

Bickerstaff has nearly 20 years of experience coaching in the NBA. His professional coaching career began back in the 2004-05 season when he worked as an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats. But it wasn’t until the 2015-16 season that he landed his first head-coaching gig in the NBA. Bickerstaff coached James Harden and the Houston Rockets for 71 games during the 2015-16 regular season.

How the Cavaliers’ 2023 postseason came to an end was undoubtedly disappointing. But the Cavaliers have a great chance to finish with one of the best records in the Eastern Conference once again during the 2023-24 regular season after re-signing Caris LeVert and adding floor spacers Max Strus and Georges Niang to their roster in free agency.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.