2 former Cavs think this year’s team has most pressure in NBA to win 1st-round series

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Former Cleveland Cavaliers players in Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye think that no NBA team is facing more pressure to advance past the first round of the playoffs than the Cavaliers.

“They got all the talent — they’re the team that I think if I had to say which team has the most pressure to win a first-round matchup, I think it would be them,” Richardson said.

Frye agreed with Richardson’s take.

“Oh s— — for sure,” Frye responded.

The Cavaliers were thoroughly outplayed by Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2023 playoffs. Cleveland’s playoff loss to the Knicks supposedly had a “deep, psychological” impact on the squad.

The series started off somewhat promisingly for the Cavaliers, though. After all, the team suffered just a four-point loss in Game 1 and responded by blowing out the Knicks by 17 points in Game 2.

But the Knicks dominated the remainder of the series, as they picked up wins in each of the last three games of the series, with two of those wins coming by 11 points or more.

Arguably the Cavaliers’ worst loss of the series came in Game 3, when they mustered just 79 points as a team and lost by 20. One of Cleveland’s top offensive players in Darius Garland put together a particularly poor scoring performance, as he finished with just 10 points on 4-of-21 shooting from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range.

So far in the 2023-24 regular season, the Cavaliers once again own one of the better records in the Eastern Conference at 40-22 but have just a 4-5 record since the end of the All-Star break.

Recently, Cleveland suffered a loss to an inferior Atlanta Hawks team on Wednesday. It’s worth noting that the Cavaliers were without perhaps the team’s top player — Donovan Mitchell — but the Hawks own just a 28-34 record on the season.

The Cavaliers are in jeopardy of losing for the third time in their last four games, as they will host the Minnesota Timberwolves — who own a 44-19 record, the best in the Western Conference — on Friday night.

The Timberwolves have been able to accumulate wins on the road this season, as they hold the best road record in the league at 21-11.

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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.