The Cleveland Cavaliers have cooled off significantly from their form two months ago; back in January, it seemed as though the Cavs were gunning for the second-seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, they have fallen closer to the pack, and heading into the final few games of the regular season, they remain bunched up with the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Indiana Pacers for the final four outright playoff spots in the conference.

Of course, injury woes did not help matters at all for the Cavs over the past few month or so. But now, given how razor-thin the margins are in the conference in terms of playoff positioning, it’s imperative for Cleveland to ratchet up their playing intensity in their final two games of the regular season, one of which will come against a close competitor, the Pacers.

In fact, Jarrett Allen implored the Cavs following their 110-90 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night to give a playoff-level performance for when they take on the Pacers on Friday, as this could be a preview of what’s to come.

“I feel like we have to treat this next game like a playoff game because it could end up being a playoff game,” Allen said, per Evan Dammarrell, Cavs beat reporter for Right Down Euclid and ClutchPoints.

Indeed, there is a chance that the Cavs end up facing the Pacers in the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs. With the Magic dropping their last two games, the Pacers could end up climbing to the fifth spot, especially if they defeat the Cavs on Friday.

Cavs vs. Pacers season series

The Cavs lost two of their first three meetings against the Pacers this season, although those two losses came way back in October and November. That is not indicative of anything anymore, especially when the Pacers have brought in Pascal Siakam and the Cavs have played noticeably better basketball to make up for their early-season malaise.

The good news for Cavs fans is that they won the most recent outing against the Pacers despite not having the services of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley for that game. Without Mitchell and Mobley during that contest, the Cavs shifted to a balanced, defensive-minded approach, holding the explosive Indiana offense to just 103 points in a 108-103 win back on March 18.

On Friday, the Cavs should have Mitchell and Mobley up and running. Mobley has flashed improved range from deep since returning from injury, and Spida has re-assumed first option duties, so for as long as the Cavs play their game, they should be able to take care of business against the Pacers.

Lights too bright no more?

Jarrett Allen became a meme following the Cavs’ first-round exit in last year’s playoffs when he admitted that the lights became too bright for him and his team after the Knicks used brute force to muscle their way into the second round. But it’s important to note that that was only the second playoff appearance of Allen’s career, not to mention that being the first of Evan Mobley and Darius Garland.

As they say, there is no better teacher than experience. Playoff heartbreak only serves to toughen the mettle of players, so it’ll be on the Cavs to show that they truly have learned from the mistakes of their past — beginning with their Friday night contest against a potential first-round matchup in the Pacers.