Starting center Jarrett Allen, for one, is not surprised by the Cavaliers’ early competitiveness and determination.
And he thinks good things await should it continue.
“We’re definitely shooting for the playoffs,” Allen said in an extensive interview with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “First, I think people thought, let’s just get in for the play-in game, be one of those ninth or tenth seeds. But now, I guess you’ve got to be in the Play-In if you’re seven or eight, but we want to be in one of the old seven or eight playoff spots.”
Allen is expected to return to the lineup Monday vs. the Nets. He missed the previous two games while sick. The same is true of forward Lauri Markkanen, who had been in health and safety protocol. Meanwhile, rookie forward/center Evan Mobley (elbow) is presumably still a few weeks away.
After getting off to a 9-5 start, the Cavs have lost three straight. At least part of that can be chalked up to all the missing bodies. Now, they have lost guard Collin Sexton for the season after knee surgery.
Allen admitted Sexton’s loss won’t easily be overcome.
“We definitely lost a piece of scoring and definitely a piece of leadership with him going out,” Allen told Scotto. “We all can see it in his eyes how hard of a worker he is, and he pushes us to work harder. But on the court, he’s the person that can go get the bucket whenever he needs. We’re definitely going to miss that, but I’m not too worried about him. I know he’s going to put as much effort into the rehab recovery as it does on the court.”
The Cavs have three straight games at home. They likely will try to replace Sexton by committee, with guard/forward Isaac Okoro likely to get the first crack at filling the void, as I talked about on this week’s Cavs on the Break podcast.
With Allen and Markkanen coming back, two-thirds of the starting frontcourt will suddenly return to the floor. Those two with the likes of point guards Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio, power forward Kevin Love, small forward Cedi Osman, and others — including, eventually, Mobley — should be enough to keep the Cavs in the playoff hunt.
The coaching job being done by J.B. Bickerstaff can’t be overlooked, either.
For a lot of teams, making the playoffs may not seem like a big deal. But when entirely healthy, the Cavs have the league’s youngest starting lineup. Young teams don’t often get to taste the postseason. But clearly, these Cavs seem different.