The Cleveland Cavaliers begin their post-Christmas march tonight against the Houston Rockets. This is a team still in good playoff position at 18-12 and also a team that has constantly found ways to frustrate the Cavs in the LeBron James-era. It will be a huge test at home to see if the Cavs can handle all different types of adversity. After that, our home team will have a home-and-road back-to-back with the Atlanta Hawks, currently the #1 team in John Hollinger’s power rankings. Three straight wins would possibly move Cleveland into a tie for the best record in the NBA.
It has been a topic of many comments and recent blog articles, but there is no doubt that among the best teams in the league, the Cavs have already proved the most. Between their obscene amount of road games and victories over .500 teams, it is possible that Cleveland still has a fighting chance at securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Only four teams have two losses or fewer at home right now, and neither of those are Boston, Orlando or Los Angeles. Currently sitting just 1.5 games back of Boston and two games behind Los Angeles, anything is possible with another long winning streak.
Here is a look at what this stretch of games brings to the table for the Cavaliers:
Sun, Dec 27 vs. Houston (18-12)
Tue, Dec 29 @ Atlanta (21-8)
Wed, Dec 30 vs. Atlanta (21-8)
Sat, Jan 2 @ New Jersey (2-28)
Sun, Jan 3 vs. Charlotte (11-17)
Wed, Jan 6 vs. Washington (10-18)
Fri, Jan 8 @ Denver (20-10)
Sun, Jan 10 @ Portland (20-12)
Mon, Jan 11 @ Golden State (8-21)
Thu, Jan 14 @ Utah (17-13)
Sat, Jan 16 @ LA Clippers (12-17)
Tue, Jan 19 vs. Toronto (14-17)
Thu, Jan 21 vs. LA Lakers (24-5)
Sat, Jan 23 vs. Oklahoma City (15-14)
Of these next 14 games, a grand total of seven are on the road including a five-game Western Conference swing, and eight are against winning teams. A road victory at Denver last season was one of the best games all year, and this year provides yet another opportunity for regular season success. These next three games will be pivotal but after that there is a slight reprieve for LeBron James and company at home before visiting the west yet again.
I also mentioned the final three home games because that will then be the heat check to see if the Cavs can truly identify themselves as “the best” or “one of the best” teams in the NBA right now. When asking that question currently, I would have to say that the Cavs are in the range of top six or so even with their recent win over the Lakers. There are simply way too many issues with this team right now to believe they could win an entire playoff series against a team like Boston, Orlando or Los Angeles.
Regardless, there are still many ways the team can prove me wrong. The first and easiest way would probably be to simply prove it out on the court. Sweeping these next three games would give them a 10-1 record in the second half of December, an absolutely incredible mark given their difficult schedule. Winning at least four games on the road as well as sweeping the final three games at home in the list above would then cement their standing, definitely guaranteeing some love in popular NBA power rankings.