Hello, Cleveland? Cavaliers contending for eighth seed in East, possible first-round LeBron showdown
All of the above is true, including the parts about the Knicks moving into the East’s current No. 8 seed and Miami taking ownership of the No. 1 seed. Thanks to a historically dismal Eastern Conference, the 31-win Cleveland Cavaliers sit precariously close to winning the final playoff spot and the right to be annihilated by Indiana or Miami. And if it were James and the Heat, expect the fury of Dan Gilbert’s Comic Sans blog posts to burn many more bridges and maybe even the Cuyahoga River.
Take a look at the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks have wrestled the eighth spot from Atlanta, while Cleveland sits two games behind. But the Hawks have fallen into a terrible slump, losing 21 of their last 28. They are technically tied with the Knicks for the eighth seed, as the teams have played a different number of games thus far. The Knicks are only ahead on winning percentage, but the Hawks currently hold the tiebreaker. Cleveland plays Atlanta on Friday, and the Cavaliers remain the dark horse for the East’s last playoff spot.
But oh, is Cleveland’s schedule a cakewalk from here. Their only game against a winning team comes against the Brooklyn Nets on the final day of the regular season. The Knicks, meanwhile, play only winning teams that have clinched playoff spots for their remaining six games. The Hawks, for good measure, face four playoff teams -- including Miami and Indiana.
So who are these dark horse Cavaliers, now positioned to become the fourth-worst playoff team in the history of the 82-game season? They are mostly Kyrie Irving, who is back from a biceps injury. They are a little bit Jarrett Jack, who’s settling into a leadership role. And they’re a little bit Matthew Dellavedova, the rookie who destroyed your NCAA bracket in 2010 and made the Cavaliers forget about how badly they whiffed on drafting Anthony Bennett.
Should the Cavaliers beat the Hawks Friday, Cleveland fans will find themselves in the unusual position of rooting for LeBron James’ Miami Heat Sunday afternoon. If the Heat beat the Knicks, the Cavs could find themselves just one game back -- or tied -- for the East’s final playoff spot.
Which would all just bring us closer to a “LeBron vs. the Cavaliers” playoff series that’s seemed unthinkable since James left Cleveland. But don’t expect the fury of Dan Gilbert’s Comic Sans blog posts to burn any more bridges. Gilbert’s blog has switched to the Arial font.