Playoffs 2017: East First Round -- Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7)
Tyronn Lue: Cleveland Cavaliers 'up for the challenge' of playoffs
The Cleveland Cavaliers are at a low point heading into the playoffs, having lost four straight games as part of a 12-15 run since the All-Star break. After last night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors — a team Cleveland could very well face later in the playoffs — coach Tyronn Lue tried to keep the spirits of his team (and of Cavs fans) with some optimistic talk.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com was on hand and has more about what Lue sees for his team going forward:
Cleveland was thumped by the Toronto Raptors 98-83 on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale. The loss locked the Cavs into the No. 2 seed for the East playoffs; they’ll host Indiana in Game 1 at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Cavs played Wednesday without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. They went 0-8 without James this season and 0-4 in games without their Big 3.
The 2016 defending champs head into the 2017 playoffs on a four-game losing streak. On the morning of March 1, the Cavs held a four-game lead over Boston for first place. They finished two-games behind the Celtics.
“We chased the No. 1 seed, we lost two games to Atlanta that we should’ve won, but we didn’t,” Lue said. “So now we’re here. It’s going to be a tough road whether you’re first seed, second seed or third seed. The Eastern Conference had gotten better and we understand that. And we have to play better so we understand that. The challenge is here and we’re up for the challenge.”
The Raptors, who finished tied with the Cavs record wise (51-31) but lost the tiebreaker by losing the first three games to Cleveland this season, are the No. 3 seed and will host the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto sat DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka from this game.
If the Cavs and Raptors win their first-round series, they would meet in the Eastern conference semifinals.
Now, here’s an actual bright spot for Cleveland. Walter Tavares is the fourth player this season to hold the fourth big-man slot for the Cavs. Signed Wednesday out of the D-League (from Toronto’s affiliate, actually) to replace Larry Sanders, the 7-3 Tavares went crazy with six blocks, nine rebounds and six points in 24 minutes.
For comparison’s sake, Sanders recorded four points, four rebounds and one block in five games with the Cavs. Bogut and Chris “Bird Man” Andersen were the others to fill the spot now held by Tavares.
Cleveland’s playoff run begins Saturday against the Indiana Pacers (3 p.m. ET, ABC).