After a strong first half of the season wherein there was a general belief that they were going to finish in the Top 4 of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers have recently fallen back down to earth. The Cavs are currently sitting on the seventh spot in the East and will have to fight their way for a playoff spot via the Play-In game.
Cavs veteran Kevin Love recently talked about his team’s playoff aspirations this season. When asked about how far he thinks Cleveland can progress in the postseason, the five-time All-Star was brutally honest in his response:
“I think that if we’re whole, I don’t want to put a ceiling on us, because I think in a seven-game series, the way that we defend and the way that we play in the half court can make it really tough for teams,” Love told Michael Kaskey-Blomain of CBS Sports. “Matchups play such a huge part of it as well. I do think that having playoff experience, in general, for a young group is paramount.
“It’s not only getting to the play-in games, which is where we’re slated right now in the seven seed, but to actually make the playoffs and go through a seven-game series, and play at the very least four games, and going into the offseason hungry for more. I think it’s a win-win, whether we were able to win a round, win a couple rounds, go as far as possible or we just get that first taste and we go into the offseason wanting more.
“So, I think there’s a lot of good in all of it. And as a veteran, I just want it so bad, not only for the team collectively, but just to see the whole organization making that next step within our evolution and the team we have set now because we’re balanced and made up to be good for a very long time.”
That doesn’t sound like a very confident man to me. The message I’m getting here is that while Love trusts the talent level of his squad, he’s also implying that the Cavs will be happy to just get some much-needed experience out of their first postseason appearance in the post-LeBron James era.
It’s not that Kevin Love is being pessimistic here, but I guess he’s just being realistic. So many people are so high on the Cavs as a potential dark horse in the East, but now that the top teams are really beginning to turn up the heat, you could almost see how the legitimate contenders are just a cut above the rest.
The final three spots (eighth to 10th) in the East are currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, and the mighty Brooklyn Nets, respectively. Just one game separates these three teams and the Cavs, if they are able to hold on to seventh (they are currently 1.5 games ahead of the eighth-placed Hawks), then they will have to face one of these three teams in a Play-In Game for the seventh spot. If they lose that game, they will need to battle the winner of the second Play-In game to determine the eighth and final seed.
Either way, the Cavs will have a tough matchup in the first round. Just 2.5 games separate the Top 4 teams in the East and they are the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers, respectively. You can see Cleveland upsetting any of these four teams but realistically, their odds of coming out of a seven-game series would not be very good. As such, you could understand the cautious optimism of Kevin Love.