First off, congrats to Kyrie on winning the three-point contest, and his 47 combined points between two All-Star weekend games. At my house, we finished a lot of cleaning on Saturday and Sunday, plus I made it to the gym…I feel accomplished, but Mr. Irving probably had the better weekend.
But now, it’s time to move on; there are more games to be played. When Cleveland plays New Orleans on Wednesday, they effectively finish two-thirds of their season. As of the All-Star break, exactly two months remain until the 2012 – 2013 campaign ends; it progressed relatively quickly.
The final twenty-nine games present a manageable schedule; eight teams play less than Cleveland, seven also have twenty-nine on the schedule, and fourteen squads suit-up more often. Their thirteen road tilts are the fewest remaining in the Eastern Conference; only five games are outside the Eastern Time Zone, and they never travel west of Texas. After a four-games / five-nights stretch to end February, the team faces only three back-to-backs total in March and April. Unfortunately, the combined winning percentage of their remaining foes is 0.516; they play the Eastern Conference Divisional leaders seven total times, and face opponents with winning records on seventeen occasions.
So what does it all mean? How many more wins can be hoped for? Let’s look at the remainder of the season.
Wednesday, February 20th – Cleveland only plays once prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, in their sole ESPN-televised game of the season. New Orleans looks strong lately, winning four of five, including steam-rolling Portland by 36 last week. This is the second night of a back-to-back for them though, and they are 19 – 34, with the game in Cleveland…let’s say the Cavs start their post-All Star stretch with a victory…unless all the youngsters are still hungover on their recent celebrity-binge.
February 23rd to the 27th – Four games in five nights in four cities, as Cleveland tours Orlando, Miami and Chicago before returning home to battle Toronto. I project one win here; Orlando is playing their fourth-in-five, while Cleveland visits on two days rest…plus Orlando has lost 13 of 14. As Cleveland wears down, facing the Heat and Bulls, the last few games of this stretch look like losses.
March 1st to the 8th – The final four games of this homestand feature four potential playoff teams in the Clippers, Knicks, Utah, and Memphis. LA and Utah travel across the county, and the former plays on the final night of a back-to-back. So does NY; my crystal-ball shows two Cavalier wins out of this gauntlet. The revenge of Jon Leuer could throw in a monkey-wrench though.
March 10th to the 15th – Cleveland continues meandering through a leisurely seven games in sixteen nights, while also gaining some respite in the quality of opponent. Toronto, Washington and Dallas are all lottery-bound, and although the Cavs travel to Canada and Texas, the Mavericks face night two of a back-to-back, while the Raptors return home from a west-coast trip. Due to Toronto’s current four-game win streak since the Rudy Gay acquisition though, I think the otherwise-rested Cavs snag only one victory during this stretch.
March 16th to the 27th – For strength of opposition, this stretch of five games rivals any. Beginning with the second night of a back-to-back in San Antonio, they progress to play Indiana, Miami, Houston, and Boston. Fortunately, the Pacers, Celtics and Heat voyage to Cleveland, and Miami is playing their third game in four nights at the end of a five-game road trip, while Boston faces a fourth-game in six days against the Cavs with four days rest. I’ll give the Wine & Gold two wins during this stretch.
March 29th – Philly comes to Cleveland, potentially unravelling as the conclusion of a disappointing season nears. Cavs win.
March 31st – Next voyaging to New Orleans, the good guys face the Hornets as they wrap up a seven-game homestand. They have emerged victorious 14 of 26 times since Christmas, and pick up this game, too.
April 1st – Playing on back-to-back nights, away from home, Cleveland faces the Hawks, who will be battling for playoff seeding. Unless they trade Josh Smith and Al Horford and blow everything up. For now, this W slides to Atlanta.
April 3rd – Next up, at home, the Cavs face Brooklyn, winners of 17 of their last 25. The Nets are on the final game of an eight-game road trip though, and play the Bulls the next night. Currently, the two teams are separated by one game for first-round home-court advantage. I say that Brooklyn looks past this one, and Cleveland sneaks out a home-court victory.
April 5th to the 7th – Tilts against the Celtics and Magic follow. Kyrie thrives at the Boston Garden, and Orlando faces game five of a road trip, probably in full-on tank mode. I foresee a tidy, three-game win streak for the Cavs.
April 9th and 10th – Probably two losses here. First, the Cavs head to Indianapolis to square-off with a Pacers team likely jockeying for the #2 seed in the East. I plan on attending this game, so hopefully my prediction is incorrect. The next night, the Pistons, on two days rest, visit Quicken Loans Arena to battle the weary Cavs. Detroit has supplanted Toronto as the lottery-bound-divisional-rival-that-Cleveland-inexplicably-can’t-beat…I expect that to continue in April.
April 12th – Sandwiched between a nationally televised game with Chicago, and a potential night with major playoff seeding implications against Indiana, New York engages the Cavs, in Cleveland, on the second night of a back-to-back. I expect the Wine & Gold to sneak one past the Knicks, scoring an upset that helps solidify Indiana’s quest for the second-seed. This may be wishful thinking on my behalf.
April 14th to the 17th – This stretch amounts to silly-season. Philly squanders their first-round pick if they make the playoffs this year. Currently injury-ravaged, perhaps they are booking summer travel plans by mid-April. The next night, Miami travels to Cleveland on the second night of their own back-to-back, possibly with nothing left to compete for in the regular season. Finally, in the regular season finale, the Cavs travel to Charlotte, for a game that is definitely not on national television. I think both teams should agree to play Rising Stars game style; run up-and-down the court, no defense, and see who can win 148 – 143. Maybe Kemba Walker can even through an alley-oop off the backboard to Dion Waiters. As a whole, I will guesstimate that Cleveland wins two of three during “silly season”.
Summary: I am not sure what was accomplished here. I started with a concept of having a pre-All-Star break post, and then something immeditely after the All-Star break. As an eternal optimist, I forecast Cleveland for 14 wins in these 29 games. They finish with 30 wins and perhaps the 7th-most ping-pong balls. I can support this scenario.