Report: Cavs playoff loss to Knicks had ‘deep, psychological’ impact on them with repercussions

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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss to the New York Knicks in five games in the first round of the 2023 playoffs allegedly had a “deep, psychological” impact on the team and came with consequences.

“Speaking of the Knicks and Cavs, the two met in the playoffs last spring, and New York dominated,” Joe Vardon wrote. “The domination was such that it seemingly had a deep, psychological effect on the Cleveland organization. Some of that impact was acknowledged by players. But it brought into focus the urgency of the moment, with [Donovan] Mitchell’s decision on a contract extension likely tied to how good he thinks the Cavs can be. At the same time, numerous league sources, beginning last summer and extending into the first part of the season, strongly suggested [J.B.] Bickerstaff was in trouble and pointed to the Mitchell contract (and the urgency to win) as the reason. Multiple Cavs front-office officials denied this, and, team sources said, Bickerstaff and [Koby] Altman had held several reassuring discussions while Cleveland’s record was a shaky 1-3, then 4-6, then 8-8 and then 13-12 before it all turned positive. But team sources also said the pressure to make the case to Mitchell to stay long term had been affecting every corner of the organization.”

Early on in the playoff series between the Knicks and Cavaliers, it seemed like Cleveland had a chance to come out on top. After all, the teams split the first two games of the series, and the Cavaliers earned a 17-point victory over the Knicks in Game 2.

But after the Cavaliers picked up a win in Game 2, the Knicks dominated for the remainder of the series. The Knicks won Games 3, 4 and 5, with two of those wins coming by double digits, including a 20-point victory in Game 3.

After eliminating the Cavaliers, the Knicks faced off against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat in round two. The Knicks and Heat split the first two games of that series as well, but Miami came out on top in six games.

Fast forward to the current day, and the Cavaliers aren’t playing like they are still hung up on their loss to the Knicks in the opening round of the 2023 playoffs.

The Cavaliers just recently picked up their eighth straight win against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. They own a 9-1 record over their last 10 games as well as the longest active winning streak of any team in the league.

To put into perspective just how long the Cavaliers’ winning streak is, Cleveland hasn’t lost a game since it fell to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks on the road back on Jan. 24, which was several weeks ago.

The Knicks have been playing great basketball lately as well. New York has won eight of its past 10 games and sits as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference standings at 33-19. The Knicks are fresh off a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, however.

The Cavaliers’ next matchup against the Knicks will be on March 3 in Cleveland.

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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.