It seems like ages ago when the Cavs were sitting at .500 and seemingly outside of contention for home court in the playoffs. A stretch of fourteen wins in sixteen games has the Cavs sitting in fifth place in the East and only four games behind the second place Toronto Raptors; who also have two games in hand.
Looking at the remaining schedules for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors won't reveal how the rest of the season will unfold. Upsets happen all the time, team's get hot and look unstoppable for stretches (what's up Atlanta) and, of course, injuries are always an ugly possibility. But the All Star break is a good time to stop and look at the amount of resistance each team will face.
13 games left against winning teams: @WAS, GSW, @HOU, @TOR, @ATL, PHX, @DAL, @SAS, @MIL, @MEM, @MIL, CHI, WAS.
So the immediate thing that jumps out is how many of these game are on the road. Matchups against Washington and Chicago are the only remaining games against teams in the race for home court that will take place at The Q. Not an ideal situation for a team looking to make up ground, but it would be rather impressive if they were able to collect some signature home wins.
14 games left against teams with a losing record: @NYK, @DET, @IND, BOS, @ORL, @MIA, BKN, IND, @BKN, PHI, MIA, BOS, @BOS, DET.
There is an even number of road and home games on this portion of the schedule. The only things of note would be that the final game against the Pacers will likely include Paul George and that the two games against Miami aren't going to be as easy as a typical losing team with the presence of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside. The other thing you'll notice is that there are no games left against Western Conference teams with a losing record. Only six of the remaining twenty seven games are against the West, so most games will be worth a full game in the Eastern Conference standings.
Washington Wizards (two games left against the Cavs):
12 games left against winning teams: CLE, GSW, @CHI, @MIL, MEM, POR, @LAC, @GSW, HOU, @MEM, ATL, @CLE.
With the exception of the game against Milwaukee, Washington will likely enter all of these games as an underdog. They're only a half game up on Cleveland at the break with a game in hand. As the Cavs first opponent after the break, there's an opportunity to leap them immediately and still obtain the tiebreaker on the series. With their last game of the season in Cleveland, there's a chance for that game to be very meaningful if they keep it together.
16 games left against teams with losing records: @DET, @MIN, @PHI, DET, MIA, @CHA, SAC, @UTA, @SAC, IND, CHA, PHI, NYK, @PHI, BKN, @IND.
They play a lot of bad teams. They do have two games against the Paul George Pacers (hopefully, as I really hope he comes back and is good because he's a pretty awesome player). They also play the feisty Sacramento Kings twice who will be commanded by George Karl. So those games aren't a given. But overall they should be able to fatten themselves on this portion of their schedule.
Chicago Bulls (one game left against the Cavs):
13 games left against winning teams: PHX, MIL, LAC, WAS, OKC, @SAS, MEM, @OKC, TOR, @TOR, @MIL, @CLE, ATL.
Chicago has four games left against teams battling for home court in the East that aren't the Cavs. So unfortunately, someone has to win those games. But outside of that, their schedule isn't too punishing down the stretch. Most of their games are at home and they've historically done very well against Toronto and Milwaukee. Health and consistency remain the biggest issue with the Bulls and the minute load that their top heavy team shoulders will be a large factor down the stretch.
15 games left against teams with a losing record: @DET, CHA, MIN, @IND, @PHI, @CHA, IND, @DET, CHA, NYK, DET, @ORL, @MIA, PHI, @BKN.
Like Cleveland, the Bulls don't have any games left against Western Conference NBA teams (sorry Wolves). There doesn't appear to be any real challenges in this portion of their schedule. So the Cavs will just need to hope the Bulls continue to get in their own way.
Toronto Raptors (one game left against the Cavs):
12 games left against winning teams: @ATL, @HOU, @NOP, @DAL, GSW, CLE, @OKC, @SAS, POR, @CHI, CHI, HOU.
The Raptors are in the middle of the toughest stretch of their schedule. Their next five games are all against winning teams. So if teams want to make up ground on Toronto, it would likely need to occur immediately after the break. Cause the rest, well... it's kinda easy.
17 games left against teams with losing records: @NYK, @PHI, @CHA, MIA, @IND, MIN, NYK, @DET, LAL, @MIN, @BKN, BOS, @CHA, @ORL, @MIA, @BOS, CHA.
One of the joys of playing in the Atlantic division is that you get to play the Knicks, Nets, Sixers and Celtics A LOT. So again, if teams want to catch Toronto they will need to hope they collapse during their current road trip. The Cavs will need to get fairly hot in order to overtake them.
As you can see, the schedule is not going to be doing the Cavs a lot of favors. They need to improve on their 12-13 road record if they hope to move up the standings. While the second seed might be a little out of reach, the most important thing would be avoiding the Atlanta Hawks in the second round. If the Cavs can secure either the two or three seed, they will be able to avoid a tough first and second round test. The games might be tough, but this team will need to defeat good teams on the road if they wish to have success in the postseason.