Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff delivers harsh, honest reality check for Cavs after dropping five-straight games following sizzling start


Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

J.B. Bickerstaff didn’t hold back crushing his Cleveland Cavaliers team through his own words in another loss this time again against the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-98.

“We’re not playing winning basketball right now,” Bickerstaff said, courtesy of’s Chris Fedor. “It’s that simple. We have a formula in place that allows us or will allow us to be successful. Holding each other to that is what we have to do. Right now, we are not.”

The Cavs started the 2022-2023 season filled with promise and optimism. Sporting a newfound franchise star Donovan Mitchell that was inserted to their rising young core of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the club blazed off to a sizzling start, winning eight-straight games after dropping their season opener against the Toronto Raptors.

But the bright lights, enjoyable cheers, and league-wide praises turned to darkness, as Cleveland went stumbling and took their fifth-straight loss on Wednesday to proceed the season. All of the overwhelming hype and expectations were now replaced by questions about their capabilities.

Their matchup with the Bucks could have been that opportunity to start returning from the win column with Donovan Mitchell finally returning, but they were slapped by a big reality check that collective production always matters and they still have more development facets to dwell on.

Despite their containment and an off-night six-of-18 efficiency from league superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee’s supporting cogs have clicked in a needed fashion. Brook Lopez fired lacers from long distance, draining seven of nine threes en route to 29 markers. Swingman reserve Jordan Nwora went off with 21 points and three boards. Two other Bucks in Bobby Portis and Jevon Carter supplied double-digit scoring.

The Cavs failed so much to keep their effort, as the absence of their defensive minister Allen due to non-COVID illness swarmed them from rebounding numbers (52-34). 

Amid frustration, Bickerstaff understands that the zigzag trail that the Cavaliers have made so far this campaign inflicts significant growing pains.

“I think we have a fat-cat mentality,” Bickerstaff said. “We went out and won eight games in a row and everyone was giving us love and praising us. We got really comfortable. We are the team that won those eight games. We are a really good basketball team. But this is about maturation and growth from a team as a whole. Not one guy is going to do it. Not two guys are going to do it. Just understanding the difference between being the guy who is chasing and the guy who is being chased and how hard it is to win in the NBA.

“You have to show up every night. We’re still learning that unfortunately.”

The Cavs will look to stop their bleeding losing skid as they go home for a duel with the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

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