Cavs are still fueled by last season's letdown. How much of it drives them? 'All of it'
INDEPENDENCE — As the Cavaliers gear up for the NBA playoffs , their players who endured the team's elimination from last year's Play-In Tournament are still holding onto motivation stemming from the late-season letdown.
“All of it,” point guard Darius Garland said after Wednesday's practice. “It's a long time from last year to now, so it's been always on my mind.”
Last week, small forward Cedi Osman said he knew the disappointment of last season ending with back-to-back losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks would drive the Cavs to where they are now — on the verge of beginning their first playoff series since 2018.
“That made us even more hungry,” Osman said, “so that's why I didn't have any doubts about it.”
Cavs playoff veterans share advice: Defusing bombs and much more on minds of Cleveland Cavaliers as postseason prep heats up
Obviously, trading for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell in September was a franchise-altering move for the Eastern Conference's fourth-seeded Cavaliers (51-31).
But you get the point. The players who returned from last season are determined as they prepare for a best-of-seven series against the fifth-seeded New York Knicks (47-35). Tipoff for Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse .
Cavaliers are back in the NBA playoffs: Facing Knicks in the postseason will be special for New York native Donovan Mitchell, provided the Cavs bounce back
“There's the emotion of having failed in a big moment that brings together a collective spirit to not allow that to happen again,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
“When our guys came in to start this season, what happened to us last year resonated, and this group wanted to continue to get better. And they show that with their actions.
“You watch how hard they work, you watch how hard they compete, how selfless they are, and I think those are the things to me that stand out, that let us know that they are working to improve and are extremely hungry.”
J.B. Bickerstaff seeks advice: With Cavs prepping for playoffs, coach picks brain of Guardians manager Terry Francona
Cavs' Isaac Okoro, Knicks' Julius Randle participate some in practice
Cavs starting small forward Isaac Okoro participated in some parts of Wednesday's practice and is still considered day to day, Bickerstaff said. Okoro sat out the final six games of the regular season with a left knee injury.
“He looks good, and with what he's going through, it's always about the response the next day,” Bickerstaff said. “We'll be patient.
“We feel like he's progressing, but you never know when a flare-up can happen. We'll just make sure he's doing OK, and we'll be safe by him all the time.”
Why Isaac Okoro returning would be key: J.B. Bickerstaff says a top defender coming back for Cavs vs. Knicks in playoffs would be 'a big boost' for Cleveland
Knicks All-Star Julius Randle has been a limited practice participant, too, but the power forward who missed the final five games of the regular season with a sprained ankle has yet to participate in drills with contact, coach Tom Thibodeau told New York reporters.
Both Okoro and Randle were sidelined when the visiting Knicks defeated the Cavs 130-116 on March 31 to claim the regular-season series between the teams 3-1.
Cavs use crowd noise at practice to simulate playoff atmosphere
Garland explained the Cavs were forced to ensure they were “communicating a lot louder” during Wednesday's practice.
The team played crowd noise at Cleveland Clinic Courts in an attempt to simulate a playoff atmosphere, something Garland is eager to feel.
“You can feel the intensity of the city coming around,” Garland said.
Garland added he wants a loud home crowd in downtown Cleveland.
“You shouldn't miss this,” he said. “So everybody should be excited.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich .