When the Wine and Gold take the floor tonight against the 'other' team in Los Angeles, there will be 20 games left on the schedule. Among the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers have the most games left to play. Boston has played 2 more, Orlando 1 more. That means, for the teams trying to catch Cleveland, they are going to have to take care of their business while hoping for some help.
Meanwhile, all Cleveland needs to do is win the games they should win, dominate at home, and they'll enjoy home cooking for most, if not all of the playoffs. Sounds like a plan, right?
So far, things are going just the way the Cavaliers have planned. Yes, they played poorly in Boston last Friday that closed the gap they had built between themselves and the Celtics. As I talked about before, the game after a big win or loss is nearly as important. For Cleveland, it was a win against the Miami Heat at home. Boston ended up losing to the Orlando Magic. Advantage Magic and Cavs. Of course, the Magic had to come back off a big win of their own against Boston and back it up with a game against Detroit. What happens? They lose to the Pistons.
By sitting in a hotel in LA, the Cavaliers gained ground against the Magic and Celtics. Let's take a look at the numbers in the standings that matter the most - the LOSS column.
Cleveland - 49-13
Boston - 49-15
Orlando - 46-17
You can never get a loss back, and looking at the loss column you'll see the Cavaliers have a 2-game lead over Boston, 4-games over Orlando. It appears close, but think about this for a second - the Cavaliers have won 79% of their games this season and are 27-1 at home(.964). Looking at the remaining schedule, the Cavaliers have 12 games remaining at home, 8 on the road. Three of those road games take place over the next 4 days. Come Sunday, when the Cavs return home to face the New York Knicks, the Cavaliers will have 12 of their remaining 17 games at the Q. That is a huge advantage.
To make it easy, we'll assume the Cavaliers win 80% of their remaining games. That would mean a 16-4 finish and a final record of 65-17. Boston, who has only 18 games remaining, would have to go 16-2 just to tie the Cavaliers. That is tough enough, but the Celtics have injury concerns all over the floor and will play the Miami Heat tomorrow night with 5 players sitting in street clothes.
What about the Magic? Their biggest hope are two remaining games they have with Cleveland(1 home, 1 away). That said, with 19 games remaining, the Magic would have to win out to get to 65 wins. Impossible, let's be honest.
Even if we look at the past 10 games to get an indication, the Cavaliers have the advantage. Cleveland is 8-2(very consistent all season), Boston is 6-4 and Orlando 7-3.
This is all conjecture, of course, and any team can win/lose on any given night. That is where the leadership of LeBron James and Mo Williams has to step up. The team has played hard all season to get ready for the next 4 weeks. They have positioned themselves to have the inside track on the #1 seed overall. All they need to do is keep doing what they have been doing all season, winning 8 out of every 10 games, and the #1 seed is theirs.
It starts tonight when the Cavaliers take on the Clippers. Boston did the same not too long ago only to lose to the Clippers. Cleveland needs to up the intensity on the road and ensure that what happened to the Celtics doesn't happen to them. With the exception of Washington, the Cavaliers have played very well against the bottom tier teams. If they can continue the #1 seed will be theirs.