It’s the last day of the regular season and the Cavaliers have something to play for. How they limped to the finish obviously isn’t what anyone was hoping for. But this is still a step forward from where this team was a year ago.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (43–38) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (51–30)
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 3:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs -7.5
Opposing blog: BrewHoop
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Caris LeVert / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley
Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Dean Wade (OUT - knee), Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger)
Expected Bucks starting lineup: Kyrie Irving / Seth Curry / Kevin Durant / Bruce Brown / Andre Drummond
Bucks injury report: Grayson Allen (OUT - hip), George Hill (OUT - right abdominal strain), Brook Lopez (DOUBTFUL - back injury maintenance), Khris Middleton (DOUBTFUL - left wrist soreness), Bobby Portis (DOUBTFUL - left shoulder soreness), Giannis Antetokounmpo (DOUBTFUL - right knee soreness), Luca Vildoza (OUT - coach’s decision)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE CAVS CONTROL THEIR OWN DESTINY. Here’s the bottom line for the Cavs as they finish out the season: If they win today, they give themselves the best chance possible of making the playoffs. They’ll still need to navigate the play-in tournament win a win, but they’ll likely have two shots instead of one to make it into the playoffs proper.
The various playoff scenarios are complicated, so here they are in full:
OK, here’s the 7-8-9-10 scenarios: pic.twitter.com/mzqpXOE2Vy— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 9, 2022
Other games to watch Sunday: for these purposes: The Nets play the Pacers at 3:30 p.m.; the Hawks play the Rockets at 3:30 p.m.; and the Hornets play the Wizards play at 3:30 p.m.
THE BUCKS’ AVAILABLE PLAYERS MATTER. Look back up at Milwaukee’s injury report for a second. If Giannis and Middleton do not play, the Cavs have a clear window here to win this game. It’s pretty simple: If the Cavs play a Bucks team that doesn’t have arguably the best player in the world and maybe its best shot maker healthy — not to mention its two best centers in Lopez and Portis — it’s put up or shut up time.
The Bucks, by the way, would do this not just for maintenance, but because their seeding situation is down to being the two or the three seed. And if they happen to fall to three by losing here (and if the Celtics beat the Grizzlies on Sunday) they are probably ok with that because it means getting a shaky Bulls team in round one.
SCORING HELP. Offense for the Cavaliers is often difficult. Darius Garland dropped 31 against the Nets on Friday and Evan Mobley had 17 points in his return. Beyond those two, Cleveland will need some more scoring from its role players to win Sunday. Lauri Markannen has been that guy of late and Caris LeVert was 5-10 from the field and 6-8 from the line against Brooklyn. So will those guys step up? Will Kevin Love step up in perhaps the most important game of the Cavaliers’ season? Maybe Isaac Okoro can show some signs of life on offense.
Regardless, some is going to have to contribute on offense here. The Cavs need it.