The Cleveland Cavaliers have now lost two uninspired games after ripping off four straight wins. A LeBron-less 123-109 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday was followed by a disappointing 105-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls in which the Cavs blew a 10-point third quarter lead and failed to capitalize on a chance to eliminate one of their biggest rivals from playoff contention. A week ago, the Cavs were playing like they finally had things clicking heading into the playoffs; now, that ever-present doubt that has been on the back-burner for this team all season has started to creep in again.
There are two games left now for the Cavs to attempt to tune things up. First comes a tilt with the Atlanta Hawks, the current East three seed and a team the Cavs beat 110-108 in overtime just one week ago. Then the Cavs will finish out at home against the Detroit Pistons, the team they could see in the first round.
It will be interesting to see if the Cavs rest anyone, or attempt to use tonight's matchup with the Hawks to attempt to simulate a playoff game. Either way, it probably doesn't do any harm for the Cavs, as it still seems unlikely that the Raptors would catch them for the top seed in the East.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
TV Specifications: NBATV
Enemy Blog: Peachtree Hoops
Music: Outkast - Red Velvet
- Last time out, the Cavs were able to highlight the biggest problem the Hawks will have with the Cavs in a potential playoff series - mainly that they have no one to stop LeBron James without DeMarre Carroll around. LeBron exploded for 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in that game, and he was helped by Kevin Love adding 15 points. The Hawks basically have to make a decision with Paul Millsap, because he's good enough to slow LeBron or Love down, but he can't guard both guys. And because Al Horford basically has to stick on Tristan Thompson on the glass, that leaves Kent Bazemore or Kyle Korver to guard LeBron or Love. Offensively, the Cavs should be able to wear the Hawks thin, which gives them a major matchup advantage in a potential second round playoff series.
- These last two games should be about getting the bench going. The role players have really struggled over the last two games, and the bench units got killed by the Bulls on Saturday. If the Cavs do end up resting guys in these last two games, it would be smart to attempt to put the bench guys together in situations they might see in the playoffs, in order to try to get them some work and build cohesiveness. This has been something that Tyronn Lue has really struggled to do this year, so we will see if it happens. But it would be wise to get units involving Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye some time together, so that what happened Saturday doesn't repeat itself in a game that actually matters.
- The Hawks do have something to play for in this game, as they could secure the third seed with a win after beating the Boston Celtics on Saturday. It might be in the Cavs' best interest to rest guys for this game, as the Celtics are the much more desirable four seed than the Hawks, who give the Cavs more problems defensively and are currently playing better. If the Cavs do want to politic things a little bit, this game could be a good one to help themselves by losing.