Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Cavaliers and the importance of the final four regular season games

The Cavaliers missed a golden opportunity today. They were leading the Detroit Pistons with less than two minutes to play, and fell apart as the game wound down. Beating Detroit would have drawn us to within two games of the Eastern Conference lead, but even more important, it would have given us second place overall, as the Chicago Bulls lost to Toronto.

As it stands, we are tied with the Bulls. Both teams are 46-32 with four games to play. Chicago gets the tiebreaker, so we MUST finish the season with a better record than them. My personal opinion is that the Cavs have the inside track, based on upcoming competition.

The Cavaliers' four remaining games are;
-New Jersey (36-40, 7th seed currently)
-Atlanta (28-48, eliminated)
-at Philadelphia (30-45, needs a miracle)
-Milwaukee (26-50, eliminated)

The Bulls' four remaining games are;
-New York (32-44, needs help to get in)
-Charlotte (30-47, eliminated)
-at Washington (39-37, 6th seed currently)
-at New Jersey (36-40, 7th seed currently)

Both teams can go 4-0, and both teams should go 4-0.

The Cavaliers' toughest game is their next one. The New Jersey Nets are surging and in need of a big win to get into the playoffs. They're only two games ahead of 9th-seeded Indiana, and they know a loss would be very very bad for them. Expect the Nets to be fighting like their lives depend on a win, because does. The good news is that the game is at The Q, where Cleveland is 27-11 (New Jersey is only 14-23 on the road).

Following that NJ game, we get what should be an Atlanta team watching the clock.

Then comes a road game at Philadelphia. The Sixers are 4.5 games out of the playoff race, and will probably be eliminated by then....and should also be running out the clock on their season.

We close up at home against Milwaukee, the worst road team in the East. The only one on the Bucks squad who will really care about the game is Michael Redd, who will score 40 points while wishing he had a time machine to travel back one year and not accept the ball-and-chain contract he signed with Milwaukee.

UPDATE - Redd is finished for the season, he will not play against the Cavs....Milwaukee without Redd may be the worst team in the NBA, so expect a Cavs win here.

Meanwhile, the Bulls' road will be a bit rockier. They open up with two relatively easy home games against New York and Charlotte.

The Knicks have their backs to the wall, 3 games out of the playoffs. How they perform against Chicago will actually be based on how they play against Detroit the night before. If they can knock off the Pistons, they'll have a bounce in their step, knowing there's a chance. If they lose to Detroit, the bell will toll in their heads and they'll likely fall to the surging Bulls at the United Center.

Next for Chicago is an easy game at home against Charlotte. I expect no fight from the Bobcats in this one.

But the Bulls close out the season on the road against two teams who need to win, at Washington and at New Jersey.

The Wizards are hurting, and nobody expects them to succeed without Gilbert Arenas. But those kind of voids have a way of bringing teams together, and they're experienced enough to pull together as a squad. I don't expect Washington to win, but they will put up a hell of a battle, and the Bulls are not a very good road team (17-22).

Chicago closes out on the road at New Jersey. By then, the Nets should have a playoff bid....but it's still undecided, and even if they've locked it up, they'll be battling for 7th place and the chance to avoid an opening round against Detroit.

The Cavaliers could have made things a lot easier on themselves with a win today, but their future is still bright and they could get that second seed, but I think they absolutely HAVE to go 4-0 to end the season. IMHO, it's the only chance they have to get there.

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