They did it. It took 81 games and a club-record 66 victories but the Cavaliers got it done, on the road, against an opponent that has traditionally given the team a hard time. As the buzzer sounded to end a hard-fought 117-109 win over the Indiana Pacers the relief of another goal accomplished could be seen on the faces of LeBron James, Mo Williams and Delonte West.
Don;t get me wrong. Finishing the regular season with the League's best record isn't the prize everyone wants. We all know that a NBA Title is the real goal. At the same time, however, don't listen to those that think it is no big deal, or even a curse.
We need look no further than last season to see what home-court advantage can mean to a team. I'm sure the Celtics, who finished with the NBA's best record last year, appreciated having that Game 7 in their building against Atlanta. I'm sure they enjoyed the home cooking against the Cavaliers as well. Both series went the distance, both series saw the home team win every contest. No, regardless of what Boston or LA might say over the next few weeks having home court is never a bad thing and for a team on the cusp of finishing 40-1 at home, well, that is what I consider an advantage.
Tonight, however, was a display of everything the Cavaliers have done well this year, and some things they have struggled with. Anderson Varejao was a crazy-man, especially in the 2nd quarter when every 50-50 ball, and even some that were closer to 70-30, seemed to end up in his hands. Varejao finished with 11 rebounds, 7 on the offensive side of the floor, and was a key component during a 36-20 2nd quarter that gave the Cavs a tenuous lead they enjoyed for most of the night.
LeBron did his thing, scoring 37 points, and played with a certain 'we will not lose this game' approach. You could see it on his face, and on the faces of his teammates. The Cavaliers wanted to win this game, on the road, so that Wednesday can truly be an appreciation of the fans, and of an incredible season that is seemingly just getting started.
That attitude nearly cost the Cavaliers as the game turned into a scoring fest, just the way Indiana likes it. Content with going up and down the court with the Cavs, the Pacers simply would not go away, cutting a 15-point lead to 4 in the final minutes. Unlike their last trip to Conseco, however, the Cavaliers were able to execute down the stretch and get the W.
All that remains is to find out who the Cavs will face when the Playoffs start this weekend. Until then, the Cavaliers and their fans should take time to appreciate another goal accomplished, and prepare what is certain to be a fun 6-week long roller coaster ride.