This is not a must win game by any stretch for the Cleveland Cavaliers. But, it is as much of a must-win as possible for a team within the top four of the Eastern Conference in the first week of March.
The Cavs have only won two of their last six and haven’t won a game against a top-four team in either conference since their February 2 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. They’re 0-3 against similarly situated teams since with losses to the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics. They lost all three by five or fewer points, but how they arrived at those loses wasn’t inspiring.
The Sixers ran the Cavs off the court in the first half as they jumped out to an insurmountable lead. The Cavs very much appeared like a team not within the same stratosphere as the Sixers before they were able to claw their way back into the game once Philadelphia took their foot off the gas.
The Cavs led the Nuggets throughout most of the contest before being outclassed in the fourth quarter. The Cavs could only muster 18 points in the final frame while Nikola Jokić and Michael Porter Jr. took turns carving the defense up.
Last Wednesday was arguably the most disappointing performance of the bunch as the Cavs were ran off the court in the third quarter as Jayson Tatum and company combined for 41 points in the third alone. Meanwhile, the seven Cavaliers not named Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland that played in the second half combined for just 15 points.
The Cavs have looked very much out of their league when facing other top teams recently. Fortunately for the Cavs, they’re only going up against two-fifths of Boston’s normal starters on the second night of a back-to-back. The Cavs shouldn’t have any issues asserting their dominance over a team in this position.
Good teams find a way to easily win these types of games in front of their home fans while in the midst of a tight playoff race. We’ll find out whether this Cavs’ team is able to answer the bell.