CAVALIER FANS! ARE. YOU. REEEEEEAAAAADDDDDDYYYYY?
The most exciting time of the year is coming up fast, and our Cleveland Cavaliers are looking like they’ll finish with the top seed in the Eastern Conference. This will be the third time in the team’s history and the first time since the return of LeBron James that you’ll see the Cavs as the East’s top dogs.
Cleveland won’t exactly be picking their first round opponent, but the Cavs still have to face the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and Indiana Pacers in their final five games. With matches against the three teams gunning for the last two playoff spots, the Cavaliers could very well hold the fate of each team in the palm of their hands.
So who would Cleveland rather face in the first round? The young and exciting Detroit Pistons, the experienced Chicago Bulls, or the intriguing Indiana Pacers? Regardless of who Cleveland gets matched up, it will be against a Central Division rival.
The Chicago Bulls have be a thorn on the side of the Cavaliers and their fans for decades now. The Cleveland Cavaliers have made 19 appearances in the NBA Playoffs, and have faced the Chicago Bulls on seven of those occasions, losing five of them. You know when a moment in basketball is immortalized with “THE” and one more word it must have stung, and Cavalier fans will forever remember ‘The Shot’.
PROS OF FACING THE BULLS
It’s been a tough season for the Bulls, and they’re facing the possibility of not playing playoff basketball for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. They’re in losing form right now, losing five of their past eight games as of this writing, including two to the New York Knicks on back-to-back nights and a crucial home loss to the Detroit Pistons on April 2nd.
If the Bulls were to land the 8th seed, they would be dreading the idea of guarding a red hot LeBron James in a seven-game series. Who is going to guard him? Mike Dunleavy? Doug McDermott? Or will the Bulls add defensive pressure to Jimmy Butler’s already full plate in Chicago? The defensive matchup issues for the Bulls will be a nightmare for them all over the floor.
Cleveland and Chicago fans will also remember last season’s playoff series like it was yesterday. With the Bulls stealing a game and the home court advantage from the Cavs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it wasn’t looking great for Cleveland. Trailing late in Game 4 in Chicago, LeBron James delivered a devastating dagger to the heart of Bulls fans, and the Cavs would go on to not lose another Eastern Conference game for the remainder of the playoff series. That memory will be fresh in the Cleveland locker room and should load our guys full of confidence.
CONS OF FACING THE BULLS
Chicago seem to enjoy playing the Cavs, regular season and playoffs. They currently hold the season series over Cleveland with one game still to play, and hold the all-time playoff series record over Cleveland at 20-14. There is a storied history between the two ball clubs and with a heavy heart I say this, but Chicago takes the cake.
Derrick Rose is a key to Chicago’s puzzle that also really relishes playing the Cavaliers more than any other team in the post-season. In those 11 playoff games, Rose has scored 25+ points on six occasions, including the buzzer beater victory in 2015, and in 10 of those 11 games, he also posted at least five assists. Rose finds another gear when he faces the Cavs and more often than not, it can be the difference.
Click “Next” to see the breakdown of a potential Detroit Pistons matchup!
If the NBA Playoffs were to start today, this would be the matchup for Cleveland. The Pistons are on the brink of playoff basketball for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, when they were being led by a core of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace. For all you new basketball fans, these guys are now REALLY old.
PROS OF FACING THE PISTONS
The Pistons may be a young and exciting team, but at this stage of their careers, they’re simply too young. Regular season basketball and playoff basketball are two completely different things, and especially when you walk into our house, the Quicken Loans Arena.
The Pistons’ starting five of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Andre Drummond have a combined 30 games of playoff experience. All 30 of those games belong to Jackson, notching all of those as the backup point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cleveland’s starting five on the other hand, has a combined playoff game total of 291, which gives us the upper hand in terms of experience.
LeBron James is also a pretty huge fan of playing the Pistons. In 17 post-season games, James has put up a an average of 27.8 points a night against Detroit, and with the current hot streak he’s on, who knows what else lies ahead. If this is indeed the matchup, do yourself the favor of watching LeBron James take over ‘Game 5’
at the Palace. You’re guaranteed goosebumps and will be playoff ready!
CONS OF FACING THE PISTONS
The Pistons are young, they’re exciting, and they definitely aren’t the ideal first round matchup. Pistons fans actually want the Cavs as their first round matchup, there’s zero expectations on Stan Van Gundy’s men while the expectations in Cleveland couldn’t be any higher.
The Pistons actually match up against the Cavs pretty well, holding the season series at 2-1 with one game still to play. Especially now with the addition of Marcus Morris, the matchups are pretty solid all over the floor. Irving on Jackson, Smith on Caldwell-Pope, James on Harris, Love on Morris, and Mozgov on Drummond. The Cavs may just edge out that matchup battle 3-2, but a lot of these games will be tighter than most predict.
If the management and coaching staff in Cleveland feel the same way and would rather see another team in the first round, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cavs ‘rest’ key guys against Detroit in the last game of the season.
Click “Next” to see the breakdown of a potential Indiana Pacers matchup!
In my opinion, this would be the ideal first round matchup for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s a team that the Cavs are familiar with, and also doesn’t possess too much playoff experience. With the Pacers and Pistons tied in the standings, Indiana holds the tiebreaker with a 3-1 series lead in the regular season.
If the Pistons were to overtake the Pacers in the final standings, they will need to finish one game clear of them, and with five games left in the season the Cavaliers could literally hold the fate of both teams in their own hands with games against both still left to play.
PROS OF FACING THE PACERS
The season series currently stands at 3-0 against Indiana, the only winning record Cleveland has over the possible three matchups. Indiana is a one-man machine, relying completely and heavily on Paul George. George averages 23.3 points a night to lead the Pacers, while the second leading scorer on the team is Monta Ellis, averaging a mere 14.0 points every outing.
The starting five matchups all over the floor definitely swing in the Cavs’ direction, but it’s when you start looking down the depth chart, as a Cavs fan, that you start to smile. Cleveland has been noted on their lack of bench scoring on most nights, ranking 17th in league for bench production. Indiana on the other hand ranks horribly, actually ranking second to last in the league for bench scoring. The smiling doesn’t stop there either Cavs Nation. The Pacers put up 24.1 points off the bench, while their backup shooting guard (and Cavs single game three-point makes co-record holder) C.J Miles averages 11.6 of those. Meaning that another 4-6 players combine a total of 12.6 points a night.
I love stats.
CONS OF FACING THE PACERS
Paul George has unfinished business with LeBron James and he will die trying to level the score. For three consecutive years, Paul George and the Indiana Pacers’ season was ended by James, two of those occasions being in the Eastern Conference Finals. If anyone has a score to settle, it is definitely George.
A very interesting stat that the national media will surely stumble upon, and make a big deal out of, is that Cleveland may hold the season series at 3-0 but have done so winning games by an average of 4.3 points, including an overtime game.
But that’s all I can find, BRING ON THE PACERS!