After Months Of Attention And Adversity, How Far Can The Cavs Go?
The Cavs have secured the second seed in the east, and will likely use the time remaining in the regular season preparing for a long playoff run. This will include rest for the guys who play heavy minutes, a lot of skill work in practice, and plenty of time spent with the training staff to be as healthy as possible for the grueling postseason. While they wait to see who they will match up with first, the Cavs will have plenty of time to scout the competition and plan for each potential series, which will hopefully include a trip to the NBA Finals.
The regular season has been unlike any in Cavs history. There have been higher expectations, more media attention, and ultimately a better product on the court than has ever been in Cleveland. To say that the team got off to a rough start handling the attention is an understatement. The team scuffled their way to inconsistent play and bad losses. LeBron was visibly frustrated and noticeably unhealthy. Kevin Love was still trying to find his rhythm, while often being exposed defensively. Kyrie was dealing with criticism for not playing like a real point guard. Anderson Varejao would see his season end early due to injury, and Dion Waiters would soon be traded to Oklahoma City after fitting in the least among all of the Cavs key guys.
The season has not been an easy test. The team started the season with eight new players, and have since added three more. First year head coach David Blatt faced plenty of scrutiny, with some, but not all of it, being deserved. It took a two-week break for LeBron and two separate trades to bring some clarity to the identity of the team. Since the additions of Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert, the Cavs have been arguably the best team in the NBA. The Cavs have beaten six of the top seven western conference playoff teams since those trades, including the NBA leading Warriors and the defending champion Spurs.
David Blatt talked about the things they’ll key on this next week:
“The first priority here is not to rest guys,” Blatt said. “It’s to play well, it’s to stay in good shape, it’s to work on a lot of things, and it’s to win basketball games in order to achieve our goals until the end of the season.”
The challenges that the Cavs faced early in the year, and the decisions that David Griffin and the rest of the front office have made, have put the team in a great position heading into the playoffs. There is no question that the Cavs goal is to win an NBA championship. Most NBA talking heads will pick them to win the East, but with the dominance of the Western Conference, few will pick them to win it all.
The tests that the Cavs have taken and passed this year have prepared them for a lengthy playoff run. Their health will be important, as will their matchups within each series. Perhaps what will make the biggest difference to their playoff success will be their reaction to playoff adversity. Chemistry has not come as naturally as expected with this team, and with all facets of the game being magnified in the playoffs, the team’s reaction and response to losing a game or being down in a series will be critical.
“We’re a championship contender, but we’re not there yet,” James said after defeating the Bulls last Sunday. “We have the talent, we’ve had the process so far, but we still have some time left. We won’t take those days for granted.”
Cavs fan should all believe one thing: the team is fully capable of winning a championship this year. There are several challenges in their way, but it is absolutely possible that the team will win the city’s first championship since 1964 this year. The Western Conference is better than the East at the moment, but in the NBA Finals, the Cavs will not be facing the whole West. They will likely be facing a team that is bruised, a team that is battered, and a team that is exhausted. Hopefully the Western Conference Champion takes a route to the Finals that equates to an extra seven-game series that that the Cavs do not have to play… with the Cavs are sitting right there waiting on them.