It’s been a while since the Cavaliers tasted the playoffs — 2018 to be exact.
For a lot of fans, that’s been five long years.
But it’s been even longer if you take LeBron James out of the equation. In fact, the last time Cleveland made the playoffs without LeBron? Try 1997-98, when names such as Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Cedric Henderson ruled the court.
And if not ruled, at least were good enough to lift the Cavs to a first-round exit (vs. the Pacers).
Anyway, all of that is ancient history now. That’s because the Cavs of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have the franchise back in the postseason. And not just the play-in tournament like last year.
Instead, thanks to Sunday’s 108-91 home win over the Rockets, the Cavs (48-28) are back in the actual playoffs. They are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and unless something goes dramatically wrong or dramatically right, fourth is where they will stay.
But fourth place still gives you home-court advantage in the first round.
“Organizationally, this is a big deal,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. “To come from where we came from, and every year to continue to take steps in the right direction … all the hard work that people put in to help get us here should be acknowledged.”
For the record, it’s been 30 years since the Cavs won a playoff series without James. But one step at a time.
“Our guys have bought into something bigger than themselves,” Bickerstaff added. “It’s unique for a young team to do that at such a rapid pace. Typically young guys are so worried about figuring out themselves that the team is secondary.”
Not these Cavs, it appears.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys where the team is the primary thing, and the only thing” Bickerstaff said. “… This is something that has been done as a collective.”
Allen led the Cavs with 24 points and 14 rebounds, hitting 8-of-11 from the field. Mitchell added 22, Mobley scored 19 and Garland had 17 and eight assists. So yes, it’s a collective effort.
The Cavs have six regular-season games remaining. The NBA playoffs are expected to begin Thursday, April 13.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) March 27, 2023