The Cavaliers have survived the "Month of Doom" despite multiple injuries to key players and find themselves in a position to make a run for the postseason. Buckle up folks! We haven't had meaningful games this late in the year in a long time.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed and the playoffs are a bit of a long shot. Some might think that it'd be better to lose out and improve our lottery odds rather than fall short of the postseason. I think the transformations we've seen out of the Cavs players over the past month is a direct result of trying every single game and making each possession count. David had touched on the growth of some of the Cavs players last week and I think it's fairly safe to say that the improvements that Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and Tristan Thompson have made throughout this season are at least in part due to Mike Brown's refusal to let the team quit. I've said it many times, but what good is tanking to get another high prospect if you spoil the prospects that you've already acquired?
If you look on the big boards of most mock drafts the 5-12 positions are full of power forwards and guards. Two positions that the Cavaliers believe that they have addressed through previous drafts. While that may or may not be the case, drafting a player at those positions would likely mean giving up on a previous pick, or reaching in order to get a player at a position that fits. There are likely no franchise changers at that point in the draft, so why not root for a playoff push and at the very least some momentum and chemistry to carry into next season. This year proved you can't just flip the switch from tanking to winning, you need to learn how to win in the NBA. So if that means the Cavs will pick at 9 or 10 instead of 7 or 8, I don't think it's that big of a sacrifice.
That being said, the Cavaliers will likely need to go 6-1 in order to make the playoffs. Let's look at what the Cavaliers and their competition are facing in order to get into the playoffs:
Cleveland Cavaliers (30-45):
Orlando Magic (A):
W 109-100; W 87-81 (OT); W 101-93.
Likely outcome: Win!
Atlanta Hawks (A):
L 108-89; L 127-125 (2OT).
Likely outcome: Well, the Hawks have been struggling as of late. If the Cavs lose this game it essentially kills their playoff odds. This is truly a must win game.
Charlotte Bobcasts (H):
L 90-84; L 86-80; L 101-92.
Likely outcome: A loss. Certainly a winnable game, but Charlotte does seem to have our number.
Detroit Pistons (H):
L 115-92; W 93-89; W 97-96.
Likely outcome: Win! Detroit is tanking hard and this really should be a win for the Cavs.
Milwaukee Bucks (A):
L 109-104 (pours gasoline on self); W 114-111 (OT); W 93-78.
Likely outcome: Win
Boston Celtics (H):
L 103-86; L 103-100.
Likely outcome: I mean, we should win this game. We didn't have Deng or Hawes in either of the previous match-ups and Boston hasn't exactly been playing great. They do have Rondo back as well, but they beat the Cavs at the three point line in the previous match-ups and Rondo does not exactly help from there. There won't be much incentive for the Celtics to win this game and it's the first time these teams will play each other in Cleveland. So let's call it a Cavs win.
Brooklyn Nets (H):
W 98-94; L 89-82; L 108-97.
Likely outcome: Probably a loss, but this is a winnable game. Hopefully Brooklyn will be resting their veterans for the final game of the season. The fact that this game is at Quicken Loans helps, and if this is a win to get in game, I would imagine the environment would be something special.
So while it might be a long shot, you can see that the schedule is fairly favorable. Hopefully Kyrie Irving will be back for the entire stretch. Now let's look at who we are trying to catch:
Atlanta Hawks (31-41):
Philadelphia 76ers (2-0), Chicago Bulls (0-3), Cleveland Cavaliers (2-0), @ Indiana Pacers (1-2), Detroit Pistons (2-1), Boston Celtics (1-2), @ Brooklyn Nets (0-2), Miami Heat (1-2), Charlotte Bobcats (3-0), @ Milwaukee Bucks (2-0).
If the Cavs were to go 6-1, they would need to hope that Atlanta goes 4-6 to close out the season. They play 5 teams the have winning records against, including the Cavaliers. Again, Friday's game in Atlanta is a must win.
New York Knicks (31-43)
@ Utah Jazz (1-0), Brooklyn Nets (1-1), Washington Wizards (0-2), @ Miami Heat (1-2), @ Toronto Raptors (0-2), Chicago Bulls (1-2), @ Brooklyn Nets (1-1), Toronto Raptors (0-2).
The Knicks play one team they have a winning record against and half of their remaining schedule on the road. They have the most difficult schedule out of the remaining teams and likely would be unable to go 5-3 down the stretch to make the postseason.
While it might be a long shot, it's not completely crazy. The Cavaliers are actually in a playoff race, and I'm just happy to be watching meaningful games this late in the season.