Just a few days ago, it looked like the Cavaliers’ season was completely finished. The Cavs were without their star point guard Kyrie Irving and had just lost four straight games (albeit to four of the league’s top teams). Now, three games later, the Cavs find themselves just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, which is currently held by a struggling Atlanta Hawks team that has dropped four straight. Coming off of Dion Waiters’ game-winner to cap off a dramatic win in Detroit, the Cavs seem to be playing with a new sense of urgency and optimism. With just 9 games left, a playoff run is unlikely…but not impossible.
Here are the current Eastern Conference playoff standings as of March 27 at 8pm:
7. Charlotte Bobcats (35-37)
8. Atlanta Hawks (31-39)
– New York Knicks (30-42, 2 GB)
– Cleveland Cavaliers (29-44, 3.5 GB)
– Detroit Pistons (26-45, 5.5 GB)
As you can see, the odds still against the Cavs to find a spot in the playoffs, but a late winning streak and a bit of luck can definitely get them there. The Hawks have been riding through a rough patch lately, taking a 4-game losing streak into Wednesday’s matchup against Portland. The Knicks, on the other hand, have found a groove in the past week or so. New York has won 9 of their last 11 games, including a streak of 8 W’s that the Cavs fortunately ended on Sunday night. As for the your very own Cavaliers, the Wine and Gold are winners of their last 3 and seem to be playing with a bit more sense of urgency as the season starts to wind down. Like I said, it’s improbable, but not impossible.
With that being said, if there was ever a team to come from behind at the end of the season to squeak into the playoffs, it would be these Cavaliers. I cannot tell you how many times the Cavs have turned around a 20-point deficit to at least make a game interesting at the end, if not take the victory. This team does have a knack for coming back.
In terms of the remaining schedule, the worst is definitely behind us. After a brutal March, the Cavs have a beatable schedule to close the season with. The remaining lineup goes as follows:
3/28 – @ Brooklyn Nets
3/30 – vs Indiana Pacers
4/2 – @ Orlando Magic
4/4 – @ Atlanta Hawks
4/5 – vs Charlotte Bobcats
4/9 – vs Detroit Pistons
4/11 – @ Milwaukee Bucks
4/12 – vs Boston Celtics
4/16 – vs Brooklyn Nets
Not only are the majority of their remaining games being played in Cleveland, but this schedule is nothing that this Cavaliers team can’t handle. The only game that stands out as a almost-certain loss is the March 30th meeting against the formidable Pacers. Other than that, these are all teams that the Cavs can contest with. One game to highlight is the April 4th contest with the Hawks. Atlanta currently holds the final playoff spot, and if both sides keep trending in the same directions, that will end up being a pivotal game in the final few weeks of the season.
The Cavs are still on the outside looking in, so they will clearly need some help from other teams. The Knicks have a relatively difficult schedule to close the year with, and that could end up being a big factor in where the Cavs finish in the standings. New York is still yet to play Phoenix (43-29), Golden State (44-27), Miami (48-22), Chicago (40-31), two meetings with Toronto (40-31) and two different meetings with Brooklyn (37-33). The only “gimmie” game left on the Knicks’ schedule is against the Utah Jazz, and even that is an away game.
As for the Hawks, they will play out the season with a similar schedule to the Cavs. Atlanta is scheduled to play many of the same teams that our Cavs do in the coming weeks (Indiana, Detroit, Boston, Brooklyn, etc.), but the Hawks will have to host the Miami Heat, who could still be battling the Pacers for the #1 overall seed in the East, as well as the Bulls, who always seem like they play their opponent tough. Get ready for 2 weeks of scoreboard watching.
We saw some late-season magic with the Indians this past fall, let’s see if we can be graced again by an exciting playoff run by Mike Brown’s Cavaliers. 3.5 games back with 9 games to go…improbable, but not impossible.
By Jay Cannon
Main Image credit to: cleveland.com