The Cleveland Cavaliers were seen as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference this season. But, they failed miserably to live up to expectations in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, losing in five games to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. For a team that went out and traded for Donovan Mitchell last summer in order to make them a serious force in the postseason, the Cavs dropped the ball.
Cleveland’s offense was held to under 100 points in four of the five games in the series and even scored an NBA-low 79 in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. You can point fingers at a lot of different people for this unforgettable showing, but in the end, it was a poor collective effort.
That being said, there are certain players who didn’t step up when it mattered most. Here they are.
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Jarrett Allen has been an important piece of the Cavs’ frontcourt across the last couple of seasons. He had a respectable campaign, registering 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, forming a solid partnership with Evan Mobley. However, the big man was practically invisible against the Knicks. He averaged 9.4 points and 7.4 boards but collected just 13 rebounds through the final three games of the series. Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein pushed him around down low on a consistent basis. Allen showed zero physicality or presence around the cup. It was a sheer disappointment. You win games on the glass and Allen basically just folded up. He even admitted the “lights were brighter than he expected” in the playoffs. Certainly not something you want to hear from one of your best players.
Yes, Mitchell did lead the Cavs in scoring in the five games, averaging 23.2 points, 7.2 assists, and five rebounds per night. But, that doesn’t tell the whole picture. At Madison Square Garden, the place where many believed Spida would be playing in 2022-23, the All-Star struggled immensely. He was 9 f0r 19 with 22 points in game 3 but also had six turnovers before scoring a mere 11 points in Game 4 at the Basketball Mecca. When Cleveland needed him to rise to the occasion, he didn’t. Again, this organization gave up a lot to acquire him. But, he’s still unable to lead a team deep into the playoffs, a common storyline from his days with the Utah Jazz. He only shot over 50% in Game 2 (their only win) and even though Mitchell dropped 28 on Wednesday, he was just 11 for 28 from the field. The efficiency that we saw from Spida all season long simply wasn’t there. He’s supposed to be the tone-setter for the Cavs. Oh, and Jalen Brunson beat him again.
It’s hard to blame a second-year forward, but everyone expected a lot more out of Evan Mobley in the series. He was honestly a liability offensively, putting up just 9.8 PPG. The only positive takeaway for the former USC standout was his presence on the glass, averaging 10 rebounds. That being said, the strength of the Knicks’ bigs also proved to be too much for Mobley. He was outmuscled and it was crystal clear he had zero playoff experience.
On a more positive note, Mobley is young. He just needs to put on some weight and improve his all-around offensive game so he’s more versatile. Out of all three players, he is the least to blame. Mobley did what he could with Allen stinking up the joint beside him.