Cavs Say They Feel Better Prepared For Playoffs This Time Around

Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked a little spooked in losing their first-round NBA playoff series to the New York Knicks.

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic, NBA news
(Getty images)

They were pushed around and shoved out after five quick games. Admittedly, the “lights were brighter than expected,” center Jarrett Allen said at the time.

Allen has taken plenty of flak for that statement. To his credit, he’s just rolled with it.

And that’s ancient history, anyway. The Cavs are feeling much more secure about themselves, it seems, as they prepare to face the Orlando Magic in this year’s first round. Game 1 is Saturday in Cleveland (1 p.m. EST).

“I’ve said a lot worse stuff in my life,” Allen joked when referring to his “bright lights” comment on Thursday, via Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

The Cavs finished with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season. They are one of four teams in the entire NBA to finish in the top four of their respective conference two years in a row. (The Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and defending champion Denver Nuggets are the others.)

Meanwhile, this group of Magic is making its playoff debut as the No. 5 seed. But the Cavs insist they’re not taking Orlando lightly.

“They’re a young, scrappy team,” guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters. “They have a lot of energy. They’ve got a lot of guys who are really talented. A lot of people say they ‘overachieved.’ I don’t think so. You’ve got to give Mose (Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley) credit for what he’s done over there. They’re a really good team.”

The Cavs won 17 of 18 games to tip off 2024, but have been fairly uneven since the All-Star break in mid-February. Part of that can be chalked up to injuries, particularly the knee bruise suffered by Mitchell.

But now their starting lineup is whole, and they appear to be feeling good and ready for the first round this year. Along with Mitchell, Allen, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley having another year together, this year’s roster also has more experienced additions such as starter Max Strus, and reserves Georges Niang, Tristan Thompson and Marcus Morris.

“As nasty as last year was, I think that definitely is something that helps for the guys that were here,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, with the guys we brought in, you can’t teach experience.”

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