As the calendar turns to March and we await word on Shaq’s injury and Z’s potential return, let’s look at the upcoming schedule as the Cavs try to deal with their shorthanded frontcourt and fully incorporate Antawn Jamison into the rotation. It has been well documented that the first half of the season challenged the Cavs with one of the toughest schedules in the league. It included their two West Coast trips within one month and more road games than any other team in the league.
As a result, in February the team did not have to leave Cleveland or the Q for an amazing 20 day stretch. While February provided the Cavaliers with a comfortable home schedule, as this new month begins, the March slate of opponents provide little resistance on paper. Here are some quick notes and facts about the next 31 days for the Cavs as they battle shorthanded.
• The Cavs play 15 games in 31 days starting with the New York Knicks on Monday night in Cleveland.
• They play 8 home games and 7 on the road but only play twice in a row on the road on one occasion – a final trip into the Western Conference to New Orleans and San Antonio
• The Cavs play on back-to-back nights only twice this month and the back-to-back games are never two consecutive road games.
• The back-to-back games are all within the Central Division when the Cavs travel to Milwaukee after playing Detroit at home one night prior and then play Indiana at home after playing at Detroit one night prior.
• The Cavs are on national television only twice this month when they play Detroit this coming Friday at home and when they host Boston Sunday March 14.
• 7 of 15 games are within the division including 3 games against Detroit
• Of the 11 teams they face, only the Bucks, Spurs, Celtics and Bulls would qualify for the playoffs if they started today and all would be a 6 seed or worse except for Boston
• The Cavaliers 11 opponents are a combined 268-371 with a .419 winning percentage.
• The Cavaliers 11 opponents have a rounded average 24-34 record.
• For a comparison, the team with the 2nd best record in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers play 11 of 15 games on the road in March against 8 teams currently in the playoffs and with an average .477 winning percentage. Of the 15 opponents the Lakers face in the month of March, the rounded average record of those teams is 28-30. While they play four of the five worst teams in the league, they are on the road against playoff teams for most of the month.
I realize some of these numbers are rudimentary and do not tell the full story but it is undeniable that the Cavaliers have an easy and comfortable schedule in the month of March. Every game can be a challenge in the NBA but this stretch is not a daunting task. They could struggle on the road against the Bucks, Bulls, Spurs and Hornets but every home game, including Boston and San Antonio, should be fairly winnable and provide an opportunity to further develop the small-ball lineup. This is a huge break for the Cavs as they await word on Shaq and play without Z. LeBron is also sore and banged up as we saw on Friday in Toronto.
A coach ideally likes to spend the end of March and first half of April rounding a playoff formation into shape but Coach Brown will not be afforded that luxury in the frontcourt. March could prove to be a vital stretch of games that separate the Lakers and Cavs for the best record in the league. That achievement can be hollow as we learned last year but it is still important to note that the team with home court in the Finals has won the title in 19 of the past 25 finals. Despite the hole at center, March should be a month of continued development and success as the Cavs move towards the postseason.
Brendan is a weekend editor at WaitingForNextYear. He has been writing for the site since March of 2009. He went to college in Boston during a run of insufferable Beantown championships that only served to reinforce his Cleveland allegiance and fandom which he transcribes to you here at WFNY.