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Cavs Ready to Dominate in NBA Playoffs Showdown Against Magic


The Cavs have revenge on their minds after last year’s abrupt playoff exit.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff joked that the night before his team faced the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, it was the first time he had slept in a while. Whenever they were asked, the Cavs’ players were just as restless as their coach, wanting to play Orlando immediately instead of waiting for the NBA’s Play-In Tournament to conclude.

All season long, Cleveland has been working for this exact moment since the moment last season ended. And while it’s natural to be excited for the playoffs to begin, the Cavs are champing at the bit to prove their biggest critics wrong.

Although some of Cleveland’s players are tired of talking about getting humiliated by the New York Knicks, the only thing that could wash off the soft label the Cavs had associated with them was only something they could do.

Are the Cavs ready to show how legit they can be?

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Max Strus (1) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) defends during the first quarter at Kia Center.
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

“In the NBA, labels are placed and they’re hard to break off of,” Cleveland big man Jarrett Allen said. “That’s just how the league goes. And I don’t think we’ve earned the right to say that we’ve lost that label yet. It’s just the fact of the matter. We can go into numbers, go into how we played, but that’s just how the league sees us. So, I think this [postseason], we want to show that that’s not the true label.”

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Despite last year’s playoffs exit against the Knicks, nobody on the Cavs thought toughness was an issue. Instead, it seemed like a media-driven and fan-orchestrated narrative.

Although Cleveland does deserve grace for its defensive toughness, spearheaded by the soft-spoken duo of Allen and Evan Mobley, it was still clear that the Cavs were lacking on-court grit to punch back whenever they’re hit.

Perhaps that’s what help dictate some of their roster moves when last season ended. Regardless, the faces they brought in will play a part in flipping the script against them.

Sharpshooter Max Strus is a blunt, no-nonsense player that gives Cleveland that grit. The loud-mouthed, trash-talking duo of Georges Niang and Tristan Thompson do as well. Mid-season signing Marcus Morris Sr. is an enforcer, giving the Cavs an additional edge, and toughness, as well.

“I think there are so many aspects to [toughness],” Thompson said. “I think it’s whether you’re mentally tough, believing in yourself, but really just not getting bullied or pushed around and always being self-confident in yourself. But, also, there are gonna be times in a game where players are gonna test you and check you, and you gotta stand up and defend yourself.

“I think last year there were times where they didn’t have that, and I think having a guy like myself on the sideline that’s been there before but will also be on the sideline talking and barking makes guys feel more comfortable out there, which is part of my role.”

While Thompson and the Cavs have all expressed their eagerness to showcase that they’re tough enough for the Salty Spitoon playoffs, their actions will speak louder than anything they can say.

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It all starts in Game 1 against the Magic, a scrappy, pesky, annoying squad that has similar vibes to last year’s playoff foe. If the basketball Gods do exist, then perhaps they wanted to help Cleveland by matching them with the best-possible matchup, other than New York, to showcase their toughness and that they’re ready to take the Eastern Conference by storm.


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