“I know [losing to the Knicks] stuck with me for a pretty long time,” Okoro said. “It took me a minute to get over it.”
Asked exactly how long it took him to get over the series defeat, Okoro said it took the Knicks being “kicked out of the playoffs.”
Okoro and the Cavaliers lost to the Knicks in five games in the first round of the playoffs despite owning home-court advantage in the series.
After the Knicks eliminated the Cavaliers, they lost to the Heat in six games in the second round. New York’s two wins in that series came in Games 2 and 5. Point guard Jalen Brunson scored 30-plus points for the Knicks in each of their wins.
The Heat, who were the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed in the 2023 playoffs, then went on to reach the NBA Finals.
Okoro is in his fourth year in the NBA after being selected by the Cavs with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He is averaging 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting an efficient 53.8 percent from the field in three games played with the Cavaliers so far this season.
He put together a solid two-way showing against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 28. The 22-year-old scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked one shot in a game the Cavaliers went on to lose by a final score of 125-113 to fall to 1-2 on the season.
In 76 appearances with the Cavaliers during the 2022-23 regular season (46 starts), Okoro averaged 6.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.7 steals per game.
Cavaliers fans should be encouraged by the fact that Okoro took the team’s playoff defeat against the Knicks last season hard. Hopefully, the team’s first-round exit will motivate Okoro for the entirety of the 2023-24 regular season and help him sustain his high level of play on both ends of the floor as the year continues.