1970/71:The Cavaliers started their first season with many factors working against them. The team Coached by Bill Fitch was made up of rejects from other teams that made other expansion teams look good. Making matters worse the Cavs had to play their first seven games on the road as the Cleveland Arena had been booked by the Ice Capades. The Cavaliers dropped all seven games by an average of 17.3 points per game, including their debut a 107-92 loss to their expansion partner Buffalo Braves on October 14th. When the Cavs made their home debut on October 28th against the San Diego Rockets the losses continued, as they ended up losing their first 15 games before beating the Trailblazers in Portland 105-103 on November 12th. The Cavaliers would go on to finish in dead last with an awful record of 15-67.
1971/72:With the top pick in the NBA draft the Cavaliers would select Notre Dame Star Austin Carr who averaged 34.5 points during his college career. The Cavs would show signs early as they post a 15-24 record in their first 39 games as they sat just one game out of first place. However, they would lose 11 straight in January on the way to finishing in last place again with a 23-59 record.
1972/73:To help turn the team’s fortunes around the Cavaliers would trade Butch Beard to the Seattle Supersonics for Lenny Wilkens. However, the Cavs would get off to bumpy start losing their first seven games as Wilkens sat out due to an injury. The Cavaliers would go on to finish last place in the Central Division again, but they played competitive basketball at times posting a six game winning streak in March on the way to finishing with a 32-50 record.
Looking to add some toughness the Cavaliers sent John Johnson and Rick Roberson to the Portland Trailblazer for the opportunity to draft University of Minnesota forward Jim Brewer. However, Brewer had a disappointing year averaging just 6.1 points per game as the Cavs finished in last place again with a woeful 29-53 record.
After splitting their first six games on the road the Cavaliers opened their band new arena the Cleveland suburb of Richfield, Ohio with a 107-92 loss to the Boston Celtics on October 29th. In their first year at the Richfield Coliseum the Cavaliers would contend for a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history. However injuries to key players like Austin Carr, Jim Cleamons, and Jim Chones would take their toll as the Cavs fell one game short with a 40-42 record.
1975/76:The Cavaliers would get off to another shaky start winning six of their first 17 games when they acquired Nate Thurmond from the Chicago Bulls. Shortly after the trade the Cavs would benefit from the return of Austin Carr, as they put together winning streaks of seven, five and eight games to vault to a record of 35-22 and in first place. The Cavaliers would go on to hold on to first place by one game with a record of 49-33. In their first playoff game at home against the Washington Bullets the Cavaliers would experience a letdown losing 100-95. In Game 2 on the road the Cavs were seconds away from being in a 0-2 hole when Bingo Smith hit a 30-foot miracle shot with two seconds to give the Cavs an 80-79 win to even the series. With the series tied at twos games apiece the Cavs got another miracle in Game 5 as Jim Cleamons buzzer beating put back gave the Cavaliers a for a 92-91 win. After the Bullets took Game 6, the Cavaliers won their third game in the final seconds on a Dick Snyder bank shot with four seconds left to take Game 7 at home 87-85. Heading into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics the Cavs hopes took a major blow when leading scorer Jim Chones broke his foot in practice. However the Cavaliers would not go down without a fight winning Game 3 and Game 4 at home after losing the first two games on the road. However, in the end the Celtics would emerge victorious in six games.
After making it to the Eastern Conference Finals the Cavaliers would come flying out of the gate winning their first eight games. However, as the season wore on injuries would become a factor as the Cavaliers finished in fourth place with a record of 43-39. However, it would still be good enough to get them into the playoffs. After dropping Game 1 on the road against the Washington Bullets the Cavs would be inspired by the return of Nate Thurmond who played his first game since inuring his knee on February 8th. Thurmond would play just one minute but he inspired both the fans at the Coliseum and the Cavs who won 91-83. In the decisive third game on the road the Cavaliers rallied from a 17-poiint 3rd quarter deficit to tie the game in the final minutes. However, the Bullets would pull away to win the series 104-98. Following the season Thurmond would be forced to retire due to the lingering effect of the injury.
1977/78:After free agent Jim Cleamons signed with the New York Knicks the Cavaliers would grab future Hall of Famer Walt Frazier as compensation. Frazier would have a solid season with 16.2 ppg as the Cavilers who played mediocre basketball most of the season won nine of their final ten games to make it back into the playoffs with a record of 43-39. However, in the playoff the Cavs would be swept by the Knicks in two straight games.
The Cavaliers would be hampered by injuries all season as Elmore Smith, Bingo Smith, Walt Frazier and Foot Walker all missed significant time due to injuries as they missed the playoffs for the first time in three years with a disappointing record of 30-52, as original Coach Bill Fitch was fired following the season.
1979/80:The Cavilers would relapse Walt Frazier, and trade away Bingo Smith and Jim Chones in a year of transition. Among the new faces would be Dave Robisch, and Randy Smith, as the Cavilers struggled all season missing the playoffs again. However, the Cavs would end the season on a strong note winning ten of their last 12 games to post a record of 37-45.
Prior to the start of the season the Cavaliers would e sold by original owner Nick Mileti, sold the club to Ted Stepien. Stepien’s first move was to hire Bill Musselman as head coach. However Musselman would not even last the entire season as the Cavs finished in fifth place with a terrible 28-54 record. Mike Mitchell would provide the only bright spot as he finished eighth in scoring with 24-5 ppg.
With Mike Mitchell leaving to play for the San Antonio Spurs things would go from bad to worse as the Cavaliers went through four different coaches on the way to finishing dead last with a NBA worst record of 15-67 that matched their miserable expansion season record, as they closed the season out with a 19-game losing streak. Making matters worse the Cavs would not hold the top pick in the draft as they had dealt it away two years earlier to the Los Angeles Lakers for Don Ford, who would play just 85 career games in two years with Cavs, as the Lakers selected Future Hall of Famer James Worthy with the top pick in the draft.
1982/83:The Cavilers, who lost their first five games to extend their losing streak to 24 games, would continue to struggle as they narrowly avoided their second straight 60-loss season by finishing in fifth place with a wretched record of 23-59. Providing the only bright spot for the Cavs would be World B. Free who after being acquired in December averaged 23.9 ppg to lead the team in scoring. Following the season, the Cavs would be sold again as Ted Stepien sold the team to George and Gordon Gund.
With new owners the Cavaliers would unveil new uniforms replacing the whine and gold uniforms with orange and blue. However, the Cavaliers would continue to struggle missing the playoff for the sixth straight season with an awful record of 28-54.
1984/85:Under new Coach George Karl the Cavaliers would continue to play terrible basketball losing their first nine games on the way to a miserable 2-19 start. However, the Cavs would turn it around posting back-to-back winning months in February and March as the Cavs made a run at the final playoff spot, beating out the Atlanta Hawks by two games with a 36-46 record. In the playoffs the Cavaliers would make a quick exit as they are beaten by the Boston Celtics in five games.
The Cavaliers selected Charles Oakley with the ninth pick in the NBA Draft, but they would immediately trade him to the Chicago Bulls for Keith Lee and Ennis Whatley. Oakley went on to have a solid career, while Whatley played a total of eight games for the Cavs, and Lee lasted for two relatively unproductive seasons in Cleveland. Despite playing mediocre basketball all season the Cavs would still challenge for the final playoff spot. However, a seven game losing streak down the stretch would end any hopes of the playoffs for the Cavs who finished in fifth place with a horrible 29-53 record.
1986/87:A year after a disastrous draft day trade the Cavaliers would have the best draft in franchise history selecting Brad Daugherty with the number 1 coverall pick. In addition the Cavs would select Ron Harper and Mark Price, as they began to put together a new foundation set in place by General Manager Wayne Embry, the first black GM in professional sports. The young team who also featured John “Hot Rod” Williams (who made his debut after being cleared in abetting scandal, was) coached Lenny Wilkens. The young Cavaliers would go on to finish in last place with a record of 31-51. However, fans had to be optimistic as Daugherty, Harper and Williams were all named to the NBA all-rookie team.
1987/88:After playing .500 basketball most of the season the Cavaliers would make a blockbuster trade in the middle of the season with the Phoenix Suns sending rookie Kevin Johnson with Tyrone Corbin, Mark West and draft picks to Phoenix for Larry Nance and Mike Sanders. The Cavs struggled after the trade, losing 12 of their next 15 games. However, the new pieces began to fit as March came to an end, as they won 11 of their last 13 to make the playoffs with a record of 42-40. In the playoffs the Cavaliers would end up losing a five game series to the Chicago Bulls, in a series that saw the home team win all five games.
1988/89:With Hot Rod Williams, Ron Harper, Brad Daugherty, and Mark Price playing in their third season together, the Cavaliers would put it all together. From an 8-3 start to an 11-game winning streak the Cavaliers would be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference all season as they posted 50 wins for the first time in franchise history finishing in second place with a record of 57-25. In the first round the Cavs would be matched up against the Chicago Bulls again. The series again would go the full five games as the Cavs held a 100-99 lead in the final seconds at the Richfield Coliseum. However, with time running out Michael Jordan nailed a 16-foot turnaround shot over Craig Ehlo to give the Bulls the series 101-100. The heartbreaking shot would go on to be one of the most famous in playoff history.
With Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance all missing time due to injury early the Cavaliers would get off to a slow start. Price and Nance would return early, but Daugherty would not return in the second half. Down the stretch the Cavaliers got healthy winning 17 of their last 23 games to make the playoffs with a record of 42-40. In the playoffs the Cavs would be bounced out in the first round for the third year in a row losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.
A year after overcoming injuries to make the playoffs the Cavaliers are utterly destroyed by injuries as team injured players missed a combined total of 241 games because of various physical ailments and disabilities, as only Craig Ehlo appeared in all 82 contests. The most devastating injuries came to Hot Rod Williams who missed 37 games due to a severely sprained foot and Mark Price who was lost for 66 games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, as the Cavs missed the playoffs with a disappointing record of 33-49.
1991/92:After two straight seasons of injuries the Cavaliers would finally play the entire season without any significant loss of manpower. The healthy Cavs would return to the form that had given Cavs fans so much promise in 1989 tying a franchise best win total at 57-25, while finishing in second place. In the playoffs the Cavaliers would win their first season in 16 years beating the New Jersey Nets in four games. In the second round the Cavaliers would outlast the Boston Celtics in a hard fought seven game series, winning Game 7 at home going away 122-104. However, in the Eastern Conference Finals the Cavaliers would be would be knocked off by the Chicago Bulls in six games.
With the hopes of making the next step to the NBA Finals the Cavaliers would sign free agent Gerald Wilkins. However the Cavs would get off to a slow start as Brad Daugherty missed several games due to a knee injury. However, in the second round the Cavs would turn it around as they finished in second place with a record of 54-28 thanks in part to an impressive February where they won 12 of 13 games. In the playoffs the Cavaliers would need five games to knock off the New Jersey Nets in a series that saw the two teams alternate wins and losses. However, in the second round the Cavs would run into the Chicago Bulls again losing in four straight games as they continued to be tortured by Michael Jordan. Following the season Coach Lenny Wilkens would resign to take over the coaching reigns with the Atlanta Hawks.
1993/94:Under new Coach Mike Fratello the Cavaliers would be bitten by the injury bug again as Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance both missed large parts of the season. However, Mark Price would step it up leading the Cavs back to the playoffs with a record of 47-35. However, in the playoffs the Cavs would be swept by the Chicago Bulls in three straight games.
After playing in the suburb of Richfield, Ohio the Cavaliers return to downtown Cleveland as they open up the brand new Gund Arena. However, the injury bug that had bitten them in Richfield would follow them to Cleveland, as Brad Daugherty and Gerald Wilkins both missed the entire season due to injuries. In addition Mark Price and Terrell Brandon would miss significant time, as Coach Mike Fratello was force to improvise. Fratello would draw up a defensive scheme that slowed down the game enabling the Cavaliers to stay competitive making the playoffs with a 43-39 record while allowing just 89.8 ppg, the second-best mark in NBA history, since the invention of the shot clock. However, in the playoffs the Cavs would make another quick exit as they are beaten by the New York Knicks in four games.
1995/96:With Brad Daugherty now retired the Cavaliers continued to play tough defensive basketball as Terrell Brandon developed into an All-Star with a team high 19.3 ppg. The Cavaliers would set NBA record for fewest points allowed since the shot clock at 88.5 as the Cavaliers posted a solid 47-35 record despite scoring just 91.1 ppg. However, in the playoffs the Cavs poor scoring would catch up to them as they are swept by the New York Knicks in three straight games.
The Cavaliers continue to set new standards in defense allowing just 85.6 ppg, bettering the record they had set in the previous season. However, the Cavaliers season would be spoiled on the last day of the season by losing to the Washington Bullets 85-81 in the final game of the regular season at the Gund Arena. The loss would cost the Cavs the final playoff spot as they finished with a 42-40 record.
1997/98:After missing the playoffs Cavaliers President Wayne Embry spent the off season revamping their entire starting lineup. Gone were Terrell Brandon, Chris Mills, Tyrone Hill and Bobby Phills. In their place were veterans Shawn Kemp and Wesley Person. The deals worked as Kemp and Person finished 1-2 in scoring for the Cavaliers who made it back to the playoffs with a record of 47-35. However, it would be another first round exit in the playoffs as the Cavs are beaten by the Indiana Pacers in four games.
1998/99:After a four month lockout cut the season in half the Cavaliers playoff hopes were dashed early as Zydrunas Ilgauskas broke his left foot after playing just five games. The Cavs would miss their starting center as they missed the playoffs with a record of 22-28. Following the season the Cavaliers would fire Coach Mike Fratello, replacing him with Randy Whitman.
Under new Coach Randy Whitman the Cavaliers would continue to struggle without Zydrunas Ilgauskas who missed the entire season due to injuries. Shawn Kemp would provide the only bright spot leading the team in scoring and rebounding. However the Cavs would miss the playoff for the second straight season with a record of 32-50.
2000/01:After missing the playoffs two straight years the Cavaliers decided to rebuild trading Shawn Kemp to the Portland Trailblazers in a three team deal for Chris Gatling, Clarence Weatherspoon, and Gary Grant. None of the three players the Cavs got would help as they missed the playoffs for the third straight season with a record of 30-52.
Under new Coach John Lucas the Cavaliers got off to a horrible start winning just two of their first 11 games as lost 50 games for the third straight season, while finishing in seventh place with an awful 29-53 record.
The Cavaliers entered the season knowing they would be among the worst teams in the NBA as they had dealt away their two top scorers Lamond Murray and Andre Miller. Not surprisingly the Cavaliers would struggle as top draft pick Deuan Wagner missed almost half of the season due to illness and injury. As the losses mounted the Cavaliers began to focus on the future firing Coach John Lucas while keeping an eye on Ohio High School star LeBron James who became a household name while staring at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in Akron. James who was scene as the top prospect in the upcoming NBA draft began to become the soul focus of Cavs fans, hoping the Cavaliers would get the local star. Some in the NBA even suggested the Cavaliers were even throwing games on the way to a league worst 17-65 record. However, they still needed to win the draft lottery to be able to select LeBron James. On May 22nd Cavs fans dreams would come true as they won the draft lottery and announced they would be taking LeBron with the first overall pick.
2003/04:Entering the season there was excitement like there have never been seen before for Cavaliers Basketball as Lebron James a player labeled the next big superstar in the NBA made his debut straight out of high school. LeBron would have an instant impact as the Cavs went from one of the worst draws in the league to one of the hottest tickets as Cavs merchandise started flying off the shelves a year after they could not give it away. On the court the Cavaliers were better too as LeBron James had one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history leading the Cavs in scoring and assists most nights averaging 20.9 PPG while dishing out 5.9 assists per game as the Cavaliers remand in the playoff chase to the very end of the season. However an inopportune 1-11 stretch at the end of March doomed their playoff hopes as they fell one game short of the postseason while finishing in fifth place with a 35-47 record.
In his second season expectations were high for LeBron James as the Cavaliers hoped for a return to the playoffs. Through the first half the Cavs were right on track as they were 30-21 at the All-Star Break after spending most of the first half in 1st or 2nd Place in the Central Division. However, as March began and the Cavaliers were unable to upgrade at the trading deadline the team began to struggling losing six straight games. As March continued the Cavaliers continued to struggling leading to the firing of Coach Paul Silas. Under interim Coach Brendan Malone they would not do much better as their once seemingly secure playoff spot slowly slipped out of their fingers, as they lost seven of their first ten games in April to fall to .500. The Cavs would win their final two games but it was too late as their fourth Place 42-40 record was not good enough for the playoffs. Despite the Cavs collapse LeBron had an outstanding sophomore year scoring 27.2 ppg, with 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game.
2005/06:The Cavaliers began the year with a new General Manager in Danny Ferry and a new Coach in Mike Brown, as they signed Free Agents Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones to help alleviate the pressure from budding superstar LeBron James. However, as it turned out LeBron did not need much help as the 21-year old star continued to improve finishing third in the NBA in scoring with 31.4 ppg. The new additions would help in a more important way as the Cavaliers got off to a strong start winning ten of their first 14 games. However, the season was not without its slumps, as the Cavaliers lost five of six games at the beginning of December and six games in a row in January, as often learning to win takes many tough lessons along the way. The Cavaliers would get go in the right direction again at the end of January as they won seven straight. The All-Star Game would see LeBron James in full bloom, as the third year star became the youngest player to win the game’s MVP by scoring 29 points leading the East to a 122-120 victory in Houston. Following the All-Star Game the Cavs continue to play strong basketball as they finished in second place with a solid 50-32 record. In the playoffs the Cavaliers would be matched up against the Washington Wizards in the first round as the teams split the first two games at Quicken Loans Arena.
As the series shifted to Washington, LeBron James showed flashes of why he is being compared to Michael Jordan as he scored 41 points including the game winner with 5.7 seconds left in a 97-96 win. After losing Game 4 the series shifted back to Cleveland for Game 5 where LeBron who scored 45 points, again hit the game winner in overtime with 0.9 seconds left in a 121-120 win. Game 6 would also go to overtime as James scored 32 points, but this time it was Damon Jones who played the role of hero as the Cavs won their first playoff in 13 years with a 114-113 win. Facing the top seeded Detroit Pistons in the second round the Cavs dug an early hole losing the first two games on the road. However, as the series shifted to Cleveland LeBron James shifted back into Superman mode with a triple double in Game 3 as the Cavs won the next two games at home. Game 5 would see LeBron James red hot again as he scored 32 points as the Cavs took a 3-2 series lead with an 86-84 win on the road. However, the experience of the Championship tested Pistons proved to be too much for the young Cavaliers, as they lost an 84-82 nail bitter in Game 6 at home, and were completely shutdown on the road in Game 7 losing 79-61. Despite the heartbreaking ending, there are surely many bright days ahead in Cleveland as they made sure that they signed LeBron James to a contract extension, assuring he would wear a Cavs uniform until at least 2010.
2006/07:The Cavaliers entered the season hoping that LeBron James could build off his first taste of playoff success. Almost from the start of the season the Cavs found themselves in a three team battle for first place in the Central Division, as they got off to a strong start winning seven of their first nine games. While the Cavaliers would not keep up their pace from early in the season they remained a strong contender all season even though LeBron James did not match his numbers from the year before. Down the stretch the Cavaliers would finish strong winning eight in a row in March, as they again finished in second place with a solid 50-32 record, as they finished three games out of first. In the first round the Cavs were matched up against the Washington Wizards again, this time it would be a cake walk as the Wizards were without two of their top players, as the Cavs swept them in four straight. In the second round the Cavaliers would face the New Jersey Nets, a team that gave them trouble at times in the past. However, with the first two games in Cleveland the Cavs got the jump winning both games as LeBron James continued his strong playoff run. After losing Game 3 in the Meadowlands, the Cavaliers would take a 3-1 series lead as LeBron James scored 30 points with 9 rebounds and 7 assists beating the Nets 87-85. With a chance to clinch their first Conference Finals in 15 years, the Cavaliers suffered a big let down losing at home 83-72, in a game that featured a 4th Quarter in which neither team could throw the ball in the ocean, as the Cavaliers out scored the Nets 13-6 in one of the ugliest quarters in NBA playoff history. In the Meadowlands for Game 6 the Cavaliers would come out of the gate firing scoring 32 points.
However, the Nets clawed back in the game, holding the Cavs to just eight points in the 3rd Quarter. However, after sitting with foul trouble, LeBron James came on strong in the 4th Quarter as the Cavs pulled away and won the game 88-72 to set up a rematch with the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Playing the first two games of the Conference Finals on the road the Cavaliers got off to a rough start as the Pistons won both games by identical 79-76 scores. As the series shifted to Cleveland, LeBron James took over scoring 32 points with 9 assists, and 9 rebounds in a solid 88-82 win. Two days later it was more heroics from King James, as he scored 13 of his 25 points in the 4th Quarter as the Cavaliers edged the Pistons 91-87 to even the series at two games apiece. Game 5 would be a classic performance from LeBron James as he single handily beat the Pistons, scoring his team’s last 25 points as the Cavaliers took the series lead with a thrilling 109-107 double overtime win. In Game 6 the Cavaliers would rely on others to earn a trip to the NBA Finals as Daniel Gibson scored a career high 31 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 98-82 win at the Quicken Loans Arena.
In the NBA Finals the Cavaliers were considerable underdogs facing the three time champion San Antonio Spurs. In Game 1 the Cavs lack of experience showed as even LeBron James struggled in an ugly 85-76 loss. After dropping Game 2, the Cavs found themselves in the familiar position of coming home down 0-2. The time there would be no home court revival as they were smothered by the Spurs stifling defense losing 75-72 in the lowest scoring NBA Finals game since the shot clock. Game 4 would see more of the same as the Spurs completed the sweep of the overmatched Cavaliers, winning 83-82, as the Cavs 4th Quarter rally fell one point short.
2007/08:Coming off their trip to the NBA Finals, which ended in a four game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Cavaliers hoped to continue to be one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. However, in the early going the Cavs struggled as they entered the New Year below .500 with a disappointing 14-17 record. These struggles came despite the play of LeBron James, who continued to be among the league’s leading scorers. As January began the Cavaliers began to turn things around, winning nine of their first ten games in 2008. Heading into the All-Star Break the Cavaliers continued to play better as they ended the first half with a 29-23 record. However, team management felt the team needed to make some improvements so it engineered a three team deal with the Seattle Supersonics, and Chicago Bulls at the trade deadline, landing Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, with Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown going to the Bulls and Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall going to the Sonics in return. The deals did not work out as planned as the new players struggled at times to fit in with the Cavaliers system. However, they would still easily qualify for the playoffs with a record of 45-37. In the first round of the playoffs the Cavaliers would be matched up against the Washington Wizards for the third year in a row. With LeBron James scoring 30 points in the first two games the Cavaliers got the jump on the Wiz, winning the first two games at home. After an ugly 108-72 loss in Game 3, the Cavaliers took a 3-1 as Delonte West hit a game winning three pointer with 5.4 seconds left to give the Cavs a 100-97 win in Game 4. In Game 5, LeBron James would score 34 points, but a missed shot at the end of the game would be the difference as the Wizards avoided elimination with an 88-87 win in Cleveland.
However, the Cavs would rebound to win the series in six games, as LeBron posted a triple-double as the Cavs won 105-88 in Game 6. In the second round the Cavs would face the Boston Celtics. Game 1 would be a struggle all around as LeBron James was held to 12 points in a lackluster 76-72 loss. After losing 89-73 in Game 2, the Cavs needed to find their scoring touch desperately as the series shifted to Cleveland for Game 3. They would do just that as LeBron and Delonte West each scored 21 points, with Ben Wallace pulling down nine rebounds, as the Cavs won 108-84. The Cavs would continue to rule their court at home as they evened the series with an 88-77 win in Game 4. LeBron James would lead the way in Game 5, scoring 35 points, but the Cavs would stumble again in Boston, losing 96-89. Returning to Cleveland the Cavaliers would send the series to a seventh game, as LeBron James led the way with 32 points and 12 boards. Game 7 would see LeBron James do everything he could to lift the Cavaliers back to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, his 45 points would not be enough, as the Celtics won the series with a 97-92 win on the way to winning the NBA Championship.
2008/09:After taking the Boston Celtics to a seventh game, the Cavaliers entered the season with high expectations as LeBron James continued to establish himself as the best player in the NBA. Despite a 90-85 loss on the road to the Celtics, the Cavaliers started the season strong, posting a 26-5 record through the first two months of the season, that had them atop the Eastern Conference, highlighted by an 11 game winning streak. As the New Year began the Cavaliers continued to play strong basketball as they won their first 23 games at the Quicken Loans Arena, before suffering a 101-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on February 8th. After hitting some minor bumps in the road in February with their first two game losing streak of the season, the Cavs caught fire in March losing just one game, while posting a 13 game winning streak as they clinched the Central Division Title, and made a move on the best overall record in the NBA. The Cavaliers would go on to finish the season with a franchise best 66-16 record, earning home court throughout the playoffs, where they posted a 39-2 record on the season.
Meanwhile Mike Brown was named Coach of the Year and LeBron James won his first ever MVP award as he became the fourth player in NBA history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories (total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks) in one season. In the playoffs the Cavaliers faced the Detroit Pistons in the first round, and quickly took control of the series winning the first two games by double digits. As the series shifted to Detroit, the Cavs continued their domination, sweeping the series in four straight games, all of which were by 11 points or more. Facing the Atlanta Hawks in the second round the Cavaliers continued to be on a one way ticket to the NBA Finals as they jumped out to a 3-0 series lead by winning the first three games by 15 or more points, completing the sweep with an 84-74 win to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons. After not being tested in the first two rounds the Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead against the Orlando Magic in Game 1 as they held a 63-48 lead at halftime. However, the Magic rallied in the second half and stunned the Cavs with a 1071-06 victory on Rashard Lewis’ three point shot with 14 seconds left. The Cavs took an early lead in Game 2 only to watch the Magic take a late 4th Quarter lead again. However, this time LeBron James, came to the rescue hitting a three point shot at the buzzer over Hedo Turkoglu to give the Cavs a 96-95 win to even the series.
As the series shifted to Orlando the Magic continue to frustrate the Cavaliers, with a 99-89 win in Game 3. In Game 4 the Cavs again looked to LeBron James to even the series, as he scored 44 points. However, the Magic continued to find ways to win, as LeBron’s three pointer at the buzzer in overtime hit the rim as the Magic took a commanding 3-1 lead with a 116-114 win. The Cavaliers would regain their home court edge with a 112-102 win in Game 5. However, it would not be enough as the Magic ended the Cavs season with a 103-90 win in Game 6 at Orlando to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
2009/10:After their disappointing loss in the Conference Finals the Cavaliers looked to strengthen the team in the middle by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal from the Phoenix Suns for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, $500,000 and a 2010 second round draft pick. Upon arriving in Cleveland, Shaq stated his mission was to win a ring for the king. The future king was the biggest issue for the Cavs when the season started, as LeBron James coming off his first MVP award was a free agent at the end of the season. The Cavs lost their first two games, and held a 3-3 record after six games when the season began, but soon they would hit their stride and climb back to the top of the Central Division and Eastern Conference. At 23-8, the Cavs rolled into their Christmas meeting at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavs shined in front of the National TV audience winning 102-87. The Cavaliers would also win their rematch a month later in Cleveland 93-87, as they held a league best 43-11 record at the All-Star Break. The Cavs came out flat following the break as they acquired Antawn Jamison and Sebastian Telfair, in a three-team trade, with the Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Clippers. The deal saw longtime Cavalier Zyradunas Ilgauskas sent to Washington, but after he was released by the Wiz he would return to Cleveland after the month long waiting period. The Cavaliers would go on to finish with a 61-21 record as LeBron James again won the NBA MVP averaging 29.7 points per game, along with 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. Despite slumping in April as some players including LeBron James rested from minor aches and pains the Cavaliers came out strong in the playoffs as they made quick work of the Chicago Bulls, winning the series in five games. In the second round the Cavaliers faced the Boston Celtics, and again played well in the opener winning 101-93, as LeBron James scored 35 points. However, they stumbled in Game 2 losing 104-86. As the series shifted to Boston, the Cavs again looked like the top team in the NBA winning 124-95 in Game 3, with James scoring 38 points.
However, the Celtics would continue to be pesky, winning 97-87 in Game 4 to even the series. Back in Cleveland for Game 5, the Cavs came out flat in Game 5 as they suffered a 120-88 loss. The Cavs season would end with a whimper as they lost 94-85 in Game 6. Though eliminated the future of LeBron James and the Cavaliers would take center stage hanging over the remainder of the NBA Playoffs. When the free agency period began, James set up space in an office as teams came to court him. The City of Cleveland hoped they had a home court advantage, with the slogan, “Born Here, Plays Here, and Stays Here” They even had local celebrities and politicians serenade the King with a We Are the World like song, hoping they could win his heart. However, flash mobs, money and love were not enough as LeBron James in a Televised special announced he would join friends Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat. The same fans who showered LeBron with love not felt like a scorned lover as they burnt his jersey and tore down the sign that become a symbol of downtown Cleveland. Owner Dan Gilbert expressed his frustrations with a rambling email directed at the two time MVP, questioning his heart and desire while blaming him for not being able to win a ring with the Cavaliers.
2010/11:Following the devastating exit of LeBron James the Cavaliers started the season on a positive not beating the Boston Celtics 95-87, as they split their first ten games. However, the true test for the Cavs was on December 2nd, when LeBron James returned to Cleveland with the Miami Heat. Entering that game, the Cavs were relatively competitive posting a record of 7-10. The game itself took on a circus atmosphere as security reserved for a President was required for the Heat as fears of jilted fans attacking LeBron James became a real possibility as Owner Dan Gilbert continued to stir the hate, as well as media outlets throughout Northern Ohio. James would be showered in boos as he did his ritual chalk toss before the game and led the Heat to an easy 118-90 win, as he spent most of the 4th quarter on the bench joking with his ex-teammates. The loss seemed to rip the heart out of the Cavs as they went on a historic nose dive, losing 36 of 37 games, including a professional sports tying 26 game losing streak.
Their only win during this woeful period was a 109-102 overtime win over the New York Knicks on December 18th. This included an embarrassing 112-57 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on January 11th, a loss that had even more sting, after LeBron James mocked them on Twitter. The losing streak would finally end on February 11th, as the Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime 126-119, as Antwan Jamison scored a game high 35 points. Five days later they would extract revenge on the Lakers, beating them 104-99, with Ramon Sessions scoring 32 points in the last game before the All-Star Break. After the break, the Cavs continued to struggle as they went on to finish in last place with a record of 19-63. Following the season, the Cavaliers would catch a break as they won the draft lottery, for the number one pick, which they would use to select Duke Point Guard Kyrie Irving.
2011/12:After their first season without LeBron James, the Cavaliers got a chance to start rebuilding as they had the first and fourth overall picks in the NBA Draft. The extra pick, which actually was the first overall pick was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the trade that sent Mo Williams to Los Angeles for Baron Davis. With the first pick the Cavs chose Duke Pint Guard Kyrie Irving, while Texas Forward Tristan Thompson was chosen fourth overall. The debut of Irving and Thompson was delayed by a lockout that pushed back the start of the season until the day after Christmas. In the season opener the Cavs would suffer a 104-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Despite the home loss on opening night, the Cavaliers played well early in the season splitting their first 12 games. The Cavaliers were competitive through the first half of the season, holding a 13-18 record heading into the All-Star Break as they were within a few games of the playoffs.
However, with a compacted 66 game schedule, the Cavaliers would struggle in the second half, winning just four games in March and April as they finished the season with a record of 21-45. Kyrie Irving would go on to be win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, as he led the Cavaliers in scoring with 18.5 ppg and assists with 5.4 per game, while Tristan Thompson was a second team all rookie team member, with 8.2 ppg and 6.5 rebounds per game. Another Cavalier who gave Clevanders reason to cheer was Center Anderson Varejao who had a career best season, with 10.8 points per game and a team high in rebounding with 11.5 per game.
2012/13:In their third season without LeBron James, the Cavaliers looked to start the move forward as Kyrie Irving gave them a new face of the franchise to build around after winning the Rookie of the Year. The season would start good for the Cavaliers as they beat the Washington Wizards in their season opener 94-84, with Irving scoring a game high 29 points. However, the Cavs would win just one of their next nine games as they held a record of 4-12 at the end of November. The Cavaliers continued to struggle in December, losing 11 of 12 games as they quickly became buried in the Central Division basement. After entering the New Year with a record of 7-25, the Cavaliers began to show improvement in January as they won three straight games late in the month and won six games. They would play even better in February, posting a winning record at 7-5, winning games against two of the top teams in the NBA the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls.
However, the Cavaliers would win just four games over the last two months, finishing the season with a record of 24-58. Following the season the Cavs would fire Coach Byron Scott and replace him with Mike Brown, who had led the Cavaliers during the LeBron James era. Kyrie Irving continued to develop into a NBA star, leading the Cavaliers to a team high 22.5 points per game, with 5,9 assists per game. In his rookie season Dion Waiters had a strong season, with 14.7 points per game, while Anderson Varejao averaged 14.4 rebounds per game before missing much of the second half with a blood clot in his lung. The Cavaliers would later get a chance to add even more talent as they won the NBA’s Draft Lottery for the second time in three years and chose UNLV Forward Anthony Bennett with the number on overall pick.