Just like that, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season is over.
With a 106-95 loss in Game 5 against the New York Knicks, the Cavs lost the series 4-1. Donovan Mitchell led the Cavs with 28 points in the loss.
Offensive rebounding was again an issue
Game 5, like every other game in the series, saw the Cavs killed on the offensive glass. The Knicks, per Cleaning The Glass, posted an offensive rebounding rate of 46.9%, leading 20 second points. Mitchell Robinson pulled down 11 offensive rebounds on his own. That’s more rebounds than Jarrett Allen pulled down by himself.
offensive rebounds for Robinson— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 27, 2023
New York leads big late in the 4th pic.twitter.com/ko8jATWyZZ
Whatever the reason — not adjusting, bad play, a lack of physicality, a combination of all three — the Cavs never figured out how to stop Robinson and the Knicks from feasting on the offensive glass. It’s fitting that, in the game that sent that home, the Knicks had their highest offensive rebounding percentage of the series.
The Cavs’ defense faltered
All season, and even in this series where they went down 3-1, Cleveland’s defense held up. The reason they lost three games was not really because of their defense (although they had issues containing Jalen Brunson at times) but more because of their offense.
But in Game 5, that switched. Brunson had 23 points on 8-23 shooting — not his best night of the series — and it didn’t matter. Per Cleaning The Glass, they posted an offensive rating of 138.6 in the first half. (Spoil alert: That’s an elite number.)
For the game, they finished with an offensive rating of 117.8 while shooting 43.5% from the field and 31% from three. New York overcame that by taking almost double the amount of free throws Cleveland did and getting out in transition.
Pair that with the Cavs’ offense sputtering — they finished with an offensive rating of 104.4 while shooting 46.7% from the field and and 39.4% from three —and you have a series ending loss.
This leads to questions for the Cavs.
The Cavs got beat in five games against a Knicks team that was a stylistic problem for them, sure. Styles make matchups and that should count for something. This was also a pretty young Cavs team going through the series.
But how can this not lead to questions? How can this not lead to concerns about what this team is and what their ceiling is unless changes are made?
The bench was exposed. J.B. Bickerstaff was thoroughly out coached. The Cavs’ four best players — Mitchell, Allen, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley — didn’t play well at all. And Cleveland’s defense didn’t show versatility to adjust as the series went on despite being the best defense in the regular season. What happens with Isaac Okoro, who had moments in the series (including Game 5) but wasn’t fully trusted by the coaching staff and is now extension eligible?
This will be a big summer for the Cavs. There will be pressure to improve, even with limited assets. And it feels like there’s a lot work to do.