On Tuesday in Cleveland, without three key players, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost their playoff rematch against the New York Knicks 109-91. The loss drops the Cavs to 1-3 on the season.
Donovan Mitchell, who was questionable coning into the game, finished with 26 points and, for a stretch, had the Knicks stressed enough to bring two to the level and defend him.
Evan Mobley finished with just 6 points on 3-9 shooting. Isaac Okoro added 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Well, that happened: Two-way minutes
The Cavs’ current injury situation made these minutes a necessity. Both Craig Proter Jr. and and Emoni Bates played for Cleveland in the first quarter and finished with 22 minutes apiece. Both had their moments — Porter Jr. had two nice blocks and Bates had a smooth catch-and-shoot three from the corner where he used his frame well to get off a clean look. Bates also had a nice drive and kick to the corner in the third quarter.
But both also clearly have their limits and wouldn’t be in this situation were it not for injuries. Porter Jr. wasn’t up to playing backup point guard in a way that actually ran a second unit. Bates physically isn’t there yet — he took screens and was bumped around by much bigger Knicks players — and made several defensive miscues.
This isn’t to criticize them — this why they are two-way players and not in the regular rotation. Bates especially needs time — he’s 19 and as raw as can be. It’s just the reality of them being thrust into action before they are really ready on a team with exceptions.
The Big Picture
On one hand, losing to the Knicks by 18 points has to be frustrating for the Cavs. They were bounced in five in the playoffs and didn’t put forth any real reasons that this team is different.
On the other (and this is the more reasonable position considering the injuries), is this really an unexpected outcome? Cleveland was down Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert. Mitchell, as good as he was, can only generate so much.
The best reaction here is to shrug and move to Wednesday in what might be a very similar game in New York.