After an excruciatingly slow start to the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers look like they may be finally starting to turn that corner. The Cavs have won four out of their last five, and it appears the pieces to the complicated puzzle are finally starting to fit 21 games into this season, as the Cavs stand at 8-13 and are only a half game back from a playoff spot.
The Cavs still have a long way to go in order to even be considered a “good” team, but it’s evident that things are starting to click with a lot of the guys. The success of this team lies heavily on young, budding superstar, Kyrie Irving, and he’s had what most consider to be a disappointing season thus far. That changed on Tuesday against New York, however, when he stepped up and led the Cavs to a route of the Knicks, scoring 37 points with 11 assists. It was his most complete game of the young season, and hopefully Cavs fans will see that effort and leadership from Irving on a more consistent basis.
As stated in a previous article, Cavs fans simply need to have patience with this team this season. There are so many changes being adjusted to and it’s not easy transitioning from a losing culture to a winning culture so quickly. This stretch throughout December is very important, and so far it’s encouraging to see how the Cavs have taken advantage of it. They finally have had a string of home games to compose themselves and right the ship; so far, so good.
The Cavs now play four out of their next seven games at home. This is a great opportunity for them to continue to climb up the weak Eastern Conference ladder and distance themselves from less-talented teams. Whenever a team has a stretch of home games in the NBA, it’s imperative that they take advantage of it. So far the Cavs have done just that.
Irving and the Cavs will look to build on their new-found winning ways tonight against the Orlando Magic. It seems silly to call the 22 game of the season a “must-win” game, but it’s pretty important. The Cavs play the Miami Heat tomorrow, so it’s safe to say this will be the easier win of the two. It’d be nice to go into tomorrow’s game on a winning streak.
The Magic are in a rebuilding mode this season and really have no business competing with the Cavs, so it’d be nice to see the Cavs take the lead early and never let up. The Magic do have a nice, young nucleus to build off of in Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Mo Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Arron Afflalo. Harris is likely to make his return against the Cavs after missing 21 games due to a severe ankle sprain.
If the Cavs play like they have been of late, then they should be able to put up some points on this Magic team, who rank 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, giving up an average of 101.7 points per 100 possessions. Conversely, the Cavs rank 15th in the league, giving up 99.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Cavs should also be able to control the boards tonight against the inferior rebounding Magic. As long as Irving and the Cavs get their offense going early, this is a very winnable game.
Tomorrow’s game against the Heat is quite the different story. The Cavs will transition from playing against a weak, struggling, young team to a strong, hot and veteran-laden squad. The Cavs will also be facing the Heat in Miami on the end of a back-to-back, which is no easy task for any team.
The Cavs fell to the Heat by 11 in their first meeting of the season on November 27, however, the Cavs are playing better ball since then and a winning streak can do wonders for a young team’s confidence. Cleveland currently ranks 27th in offensive efficiency with 93.1 points per 100 possessions, while Miami ranks 10th with 102.6 points per 100 possessions. On the defensive end, Miami ranks 5th in the league with 95.6 points per 100 possessions.
The Heat are currently 9-2 at home and 7-3 over their last 10 games. Even with Dwyane Wade sitting out several games to rest and take care of injuries, they have still been on a roll. Wade is now back with the team and the Cavs will obviously have their hands full tomorrow night.
Cavs fans should be satisfied gaining one win this weekend, but absolutely ecstatic if they are able to pull off two. Either way, there’s a good chance that the Cavs will be in a playoff spot come Monday, which is very encouraging given their slow start to the season. Given all the changes and the way this team is constructed, I expect them to continue to make a very slow ascension up the Eastern Conference standings.
If fans can continue to have patience and temper their expectations a bit, they might just be rewarded with a playoff team set to gain experience and above all, knowledge of how to win consistently in this league.
Related Stories on Buckeye State Sports: