Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks refused to tank, as both teams front offices strived to make the playoffs. Fate had other plans. The Bucks ended with the worst record in the league and the Cavs finished five games back of the eight seed. The cosmic reward for both squads not intentionally losing as many games as possible was finishing first and second in the lottery, with the Bucks landing franchise cornerstone Jabari Parker and the Cavs obtaining a massive trade chip in Andrew Wiggins.
The Cavs roll into the Harris Bradley Center to face the reeling Bucks for an early afternoon tilt.
The Bucks are losers of five straight and 12 of 15, which has endangered their six seed in the EC. They are just 4-12 since swapping Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, and lost a heartbreaker Friday in a 129-127 triple-overtime loss to Brooklyn.
The Cavs secured their first playoff spot since 2010 after Friday’s win over the Pacers. They’re an NBA-best 26-6 since Jan. 15, but all of those losses have come on the road. The Bucks have won eight of nine against the Cavs in Milwaukee, but they’ve all been minus LBJ.
The Cavs will look to improve their road record against this long and athletic Bucks squad. So, pry yourself away from the March Madness and check out some matinee Cavs basketball…
Whew… that was closer than expected. While the Cavs were looking to avenge two prior losses to an upstart Pacers team, still missing PG-13 and without David West for much of the night, Indiana fought like a cornered animal for their slightly fading playoff hopes in this last meeting between these two teams (at least in the regular season). It didn’t help that LBJ was almost sick enough to miss this one (he was questionable after missing morning shootaround with a bad head cold), or that Kyrie’s shot looked sicker than Bron felt. But the diagnosis from this game was that claiming a spot in the post-season is the ultimate cure for any ailment.
That’s right, Cavs fans… this wine and gold victory officially ended the drought of the past four years. The Cavs are BACK in the playoffs. It may have been a foregone conclusion for many, if not all, and it’s only the first step on the road toward winning that elusive championship… but do yourself a favor. Stop. Take a moment. Say it out loud to yourself… savor it… enjoy it…
The Cavs… are BACK… in the playoffs!
LeBron was questionable for tonight’s final match-up against the Pacers with an illness that forced him to miss today’s shootaround. It sounds like he will give it a go though, as the Cavs attempt to even the season series against a potential first round opponent in Indiana.
The Cavs lost the last two outings against the Pacers (both on Indy’s home floor), but the last time were without both LBJ and Kyrie. The Pacers themselves have been short-handed all year, but got some positive news today about a familiar face...
Indiana needs a bit of good fortune to go their way after dropping their last three straight to fall behind Miami and Boston for the race to the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs have been rolling winning four of the last five coming off of one of the toughest road trips of the season. They’ve also won 14 in a row at the Q. Let’s hope they can keep the offense going, while tightening up their D which has been slipping a bit in the last couple of weeks.
Chime in and call your shot! Read the rest of this entry »
Editor’s Note: Tuesday, we published Part I in this series of letters between Tom Pestak, myself, and reader/commenter, Mac on the state of team building in the NBA. The discussion veered off into some pretty unexpected territory: philosophy, generational tendencies, religion… The piece garnered some of the most thoughtful and interesting comments of any article at CtB in some time, and for that, I thank you all. So much has happened since we started these letters. First, the fateful day that Tom wrote us all and said, “Are we sure Mac isn’t Andrew Sharp in disguise?” Sharp’s piece in Grantland (a piece I’ve avoided reading), mirrored so much of what we were talking talking about that Tom and Mac wondered if he was reading our original comments section. The article actually pushed back the publication of this series. Additionally, the Sixers bought out Javale McGee for 100 cents on the dollar, and Sixers bloggers who more are blindly loyal than Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister praised the move. (I stole that Joke from Mac). Hoop76’s, Eric Goldwein wrote a piece that filled Mac with so much rage that he had to watch some old Lewis Black bits on youtube to remind himself “how unattractive it looks to be a goofy guy shaking with anger about some triviality.” Additionally, the first part of this series garnered so many great comments that I’ve even re-written some of my final passages to reference them. The effect may make my final response read more like an epilogue than an organic response, but you guys are too good to ignore.
From the desk of Mac:
Nate, I agree with you, if there is actually a process and it is a good one and it gets good results, nothing wrong with that. But too often these days calling something “a process” is a lot like declaring “it is what it is” . . . it is just a placeholder for having something useful to say.
It’s hard to believe that there are only 12 regular season games left after this one. And it’s hard to believe that there was a time not too long ago when Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez were considered elite players. Cleveland overcame a sluggish first quarter against those guys to eviscerate the Nets to the tune of 45 field goals off of 32 assists, 55% from the field, 52 points in the paint, and 15-29 from three. Seven Cavs scored in double figures as the Cavs looked electric for the final three periods. To be honest, much of this was because Brooklyn’s defense was lackluster at best. But who cares? We have dunks, threes, and dimes to discuss!
The Brooklyn Nets visit the Q tonight winners of two straight, but they dropped five in a row before downing Philly and Minnesota. The Nets currently sit 2.5 games out of the eighth spot in the East, and are miraculously, healthy for once. Unfortunately, Brooklyn’s dangerous when healthy, because they feature six guys who can put up double digits on any given night: Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, and Mason Plumlee. Plus Bojan Bogdanovich is a rookie who has shown a propensity to go off in games. Fortunately, the Nets are 23rd in offense and 22nd in defense, and only haven’t beaten anyone good in a while. Unfortunately, Joe Johnson has been a Cavs killer over the years, and always seems to get up to play LeBron. Fortunately, I’ve heard no chatter that anyone is sitting for the Cavs tonight. Unfortunately, the Nets are better on the road at 16-19 than they are at home (11-19). Fortunately, Cleveland is 24-9 this year at home, and they’ve won 13 straight at the Q.
Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…
1.) Count me among those who were actually surprised to see LeBron James suited up for Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat. After tweaking his knee in Sunday’s game against Orlando, James, who has spoken publicly of his desire to get some more rest before the playoffs start, chose to stay in for this road contest against his former team (and, likely, because of that).
After a couple of months in which James has sat out the occasional game on occasion (most recently, at home against Portland and on the road against Indiana) in order to give his body a couple more days to get right, James played, only to aggravate a wrist injury (in a collision with Hassan Whiteside) for his troubles.
Cavs head coach David Blatt has stated his desire for the Cavs to hold onto the second seed in the East going into the playoffs, so it’s unlikely that James will take off as lengthy a stretch as he did in December into January. Especially with the team resting Kevin Love, the Cavs need James if they are to win enough games to give Number 23 a prolonged rest.
As of now, Love is expected to play tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, though nothing definite has been announced.
First off, check out Cory’s extremely entertaining recap of an extremely underwhelming Cavs loss last night. Second, over the past few weeks, Tom Pestak and I have been exchanging letters with long time reader/commenter, Mac. The conversation started in the comment section of the Reader 5 on 5, as a reaction to this piece in ESPN the Magazine on Sam Hinkie and the Sixer’s “Plan to win (yes, really).” The whole piece struck Mac and I as naive at best, or as Mac said.. “The things they [the Sixers] are doing and saying about how the short term pain is all for long term gain are the things PE/finance guys do and say whether they intend to save your company or bleed it dry and leave other people to bury the corpse.” Mac expounded.
I am really sick of people patting themselves on the back for not being archaic dinosaurs like Jeanie Buss or Russ Granick and understanding what the Sixers are doing is really smart. Tanking and being a free rider while other people try to be good sports because the league doesn’t really work without a good faith effort to not mail it in unless you are a top five team is really smart, in the way that putting your money in tax shelters in the Bahamas and not paying your share of taxes is smart. It is smart in the way that forming a corporation and putting your assets in it and making your kids shareholders so you don’t have to pay estate tax is smart. It is smart in the way that rich people living in economically segregated neighborhoods so their kids can go to the best possible public schools funded by local property taxes is smart. It is smart and worthy of praise if maximizing self-interest is the epitome of human intelligence and achievement. It is strange to me that millenials, who in many ways seem much more progressive and empathetic than my generation, seem to so easily accept the premise that as long as it is legal, screwing over the common good just to get every last squeeze out of the orange for yourself isn’t merely acceptable, but the only rational thing to do.
If you haven’t checked out the comment section of that piece, I recommend you do so. It’s one of my faves, and Mac, Ross, C6H12O6, and CLF all contributed to an enlightening conversation. We went deep down the rabbit hole. Naturally, this sparked an offline conversation about the state of team-building in the NBA between Mac, our resident cynical skeptic (me), and our defender of capitalism, Mom, America, and Apple Pie (Tom Pestak). We’re sharing it with you in a two part series that will run this week. Enjoy.