In the playoffs, gameplans become more specific. Players who struggle in the playoffs are typically those who have holes in their game their teammates can’t overcome.
J.B. Bickerstaff has yanked Cedi Osman around the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation all season. His minutes have been sporadic and inconsistent. We saw this in Game 1 against the New York Knicks as he played just three first half minutes before playing 15 minutes in the second half and closing out the game.
Osman played 10 and a half minutes with the core four of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen at the end of Game 1. This was a quarter of the minutes that five-man group has played all season.
That lineup outscored the Knicks by six in the fourth while posting a 147.1 offensive rating which was a dramatic shift considering how lifeless the offense was up until that point.
The Cavs struggled to generate good offense with Dean Wade, Isaac Okoro and Ricky Rubio on the floor. Okoro did provide a lot of help on the defensive end as the team played their best defense with him on the floor, but New York trapping the ball handler and then swarming the paint resulted in the bigs being forced to finish over multiple defenders.
The front court struggled in the short roll. It’s easier for them when they have the option to hit a shooter on the perimeter.
Defenses aren’t able to take away everything. Living with an Osman three is something that they showed they were willing to do if the alternative was an easy finish inside for one of the bigs. But an Osman three is a good outcome for Cleveland.
Osman’s gravity and willingness to move off-ball caused the Knicks’ defense to scramble. The Cavs tried to get Jalen Brunson involved in screens when he was guarding Okoro, but this just resulted in doubling the ball handler.
Mitchell was still trapped when Osman set the screen, but the quick pass out caused the defense to scramble. Osman quickly finds Garland on the perimeter. A better pass would’ve allowed Garland a three-point attempt. Even so, Allen was able to get a point blank look at the rim with only one defender there which was a win for the offense in Game 1.
The Knicks dominated the offensive boards. It’s ultimately why they took Game 1. Teams that hit the glass as hard as New York are susceptible to giving up transition baskets. The Cavs are a notoriously slow offense that typically doesn’t try to get in transition.
That always changes when Osman is in the game. He’s a one-man fast break waiting to happen.
Defense will always be the question for Osman. This is especially true as the fifth guy alongside the core four will need to guard Brunson. He did a serviceable job defending Brunson by using his 6’7” frame to contest Brunson’s midrange shots. Brunson was 4-9 from the field with 9 points in the fourth when Osman was the primary defender.
Osman isn’t the perfect solution. Defensively, he’s not a Brunson stopper even if he did ok in Game 1.
But he showed that he has the skills to help some of the team’s biggest flaws. While the Cavs likely won’t need him to close many games, they do need him in the rotation this series.
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