The Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of five of their last six games, are riding high heading to Atlanta to take on the Hawks tonight. Instead of a normal preview, I wanted to get a sense of where the Cavaliers are right now. The chances of the Cavaliers getting to the playoffs remain pretty low. The Knicks have been playing great, and the Hawks are still ahead of the Cavaliers as well. Most of the FTS staff was able to weigh in on a few questions I had.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (31-45) at Atlanta Hawks (32-42)
When: 7:30 ET
Where: Phillips, Arena -- Atlanta, Georgia
How do I watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA league pass
Man, turn of the century rap got weird.
Alright guys, the Cavs have been playing better. What has you most excited moving forward?
Conrad: It has to be Dion Waiters. He’s playing great. He’s making shots, he’s being aggressive, he’s making the right passes. I’ve always believed in Dion’s talent and figured it was just a matter of him learning how to play the right way and buying into what the coach is teaching. It seems as though Mike Brown has gotten through to Dion and we’re starting to see how good he can be.
Justin: Probably that it feels sustainable. I've seen plenty of teams get hot and shoot well before in the past. But the Cavs are playing "winning basketball" (pardon my cliche). For example, Dion Waiters is playing much better off the ball and is no longer quitting on a play if something doesn`t go his way. The players are holding themselves accountable and battle back when things aren`t going their way; as well as playing with a sustained effort throughout the game. Credit needs to go to both the players, and Mike Brown.
Ryan: Young players leading the charge. Veterans have played well too, but Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie, of course, and Spencer Hawes (he's been around for seemingly forever, but he's pretty young) have been leading the charge. Excited to see the investments in these players turning into wins, and to see Hawes fit well with them.
Patrick: I'm most excited for the continuing blossoming of the partnership between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. They seem happy with their new co-starting arrangement, and hopefully the added time together brings about more performances like the one against Orlando.
What's been the most surprising thing about this late playoff run for you?
Conrad: Maybe this isn’t surprising to most, but I thought the way that Spencer Hawes struggled so much without Kyrie Irving was interesting. It could have merely been a coincidence, but it seemed like Hawes was much more comfortable once Kyrie came back. If the reason that Hawes struggled for that stretch was because of Kyrie’s absence, that says something about Kyrie as a point guard. People like to bash Kyrie and say that he doesn't make his teammates better, but I think there are some pretty obvious examples of him doing just that. And based on how engaged Hawes looks when he’s on the court with Kyrie, I think it makes a pretty big difference.
Justin: Just that there hasn't been a letdown. While they did not have a great game against Brooklyn, I didn't feel they ever let up. It just felt as thought they were outmatched and just weren't firing on all cylinders. If that game took place in November, the team probably falls apart and loses by forty.
Ryan: Hmmmm..... that's hard to say. This is the team we expected to see all season, but they wasted a lot of time early on doing whatever it was that they were doing. I guess that they are on such a good run with Kyrie sidelined would be surprising.
Patrick: I was and still am amazed that Jarrett Jack stepped up and played so well while Kyrie was out. That was the underlying reason for bringing him in this summer, so for him to actually live up to even one facet of his contract was astounding.
You think the team will make the playoffs? Why or why not?
Conrad: I don’t, unfortunately. I still don’t trust this team to take care of business and be consistent enough to win all of the games that they need to win. They’ll probably slip up somewhere and it doesn’t seem like they’re gong to get a ton of help from the Knicks. The Cavs could make it, but the odds are still against them.
Justin: I'll hedge... I think if they beat Atlanta, they get in. While I think getting into the playoffs would be huge for the development of the team, the experience they are gaining right now will pay huge dividends. I think the schedule is finally starting to look favorable, and if they can make it past Atlanta, then they should be able to win enough games/ put enough pressure on the other teams to make the playoffs.
Patrick: They will, because #LaFamilia demands it.
On the Atlanta Hawks front, they are looking to win their 7th straight against the Cavaliers. They will of course be missing Al Horford, whose injury is the entire reason the Knicks and Cavs even have a prayer of getting to the playoffs. Kyle Korver is likely to play, and the Hawks are a much better team for it. Jeff Teague, Korver, and Paul Millsap are enough to give the Cavs trouble, especially on the road. It will be a big night for Tristan Thompson on Millsap. Let's hope he is up for it.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: Cavs win a tight one, 91-89.