Dec 26, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) and Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap (4) fight for a rebound during overtime at Quicken Loans Arena. The Hawks beat the Cavaliers 127-125. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers have many opportunities to close in on Knicks, Hawks

The Cavaliers are going to have multiple opportunities over the final seven games of the season to take full advantage of their reasonable schedule. These opportunities, if the Wine & Gold can continue their victory march toward the end of the season, will merit the Cavs with full-game gains on the two teams that stand in their way: the New York Knicks (32-43) and the Atlanta Hawks (32-41). After a slight slide that put the Cavs at 26-44 on the season, Cleveland mustered up an impressive effort against the Knicks that may very much end up being the game that set the Cavs into a mad dash toward the postseason. Following Cleveland’s 13-point advantage in the fourth quarter, the Cavs came roaring back to best the Knicks by a score of 106-100. This began what has now turned into a 4-1 run, with a highlight win against the Raptors and a smashing of the Pacers.

Cleveland’s Schedule

April 2 — @ Orlando (21-53)

April 4 — @ Atlanta (32-41)

April 5 – vs. Charlotte (36-38)

April 9 – vs. Detroit (27-47)

April 11 — @ Milwaukee (14-60)

April 12 – vs. Boston (23-51)

April 16 – vs. Brooklyn (40-33)

Now, standing at 30-45, the Cavaliers have a number of chances to gain good ground on the Knicks and Hawks over the next two-plus weeks. The first of these chances comes on Wednesday when Cleveland will be facing off against the Orlando Magic on the road. With seven games left on their schedule as well, the Knicks will be hosting Brooklyn at home after the Nets just recently captured a playoff birth on Tuesday. The tough matchup will give Cleveland a chance to pounce on a very weak Orlando squad, but that’s not the only playoff hopeful matched up against an Eastern Conference playoff foe that stands in the Wine & Gold’s way. The Hawks, who just recently broke a six-game skid, will be hosting the Bulls. If Chicago and Brooklyn can continue to handle their business like they have done all 2014 long, then Cleveland has a chance to come within two games of the eighth and final playoff spot.

New York’s Schedule

April 2 – vs. Brooklyn (40-33)

April 4 – vs. Washington (38-36)

April 6 — @ Miami (51-22)

April 11 — @ Toronto (42-32)

April 13 – vs. Chicago (42-32)

April 15 — @ Brooklyn (40-33)

April 16 – vs. Toronto (42-42)

If that wasn’t motivation enough for Cleveland to win on Wednesday, the Cavs will have another opportunity to gain a whole game on the Hawks on Friday. However, the Wine & Gold will have to get the job done on the road. Although Cleveland got walloped the last time they visited Atlanta this season, this Hawks team is on the opposite side of the fence following the game where Al Horford’s season ended with an injury – a 127-125 Atlanta double-overtime victory at the Q. If the Cavs can take advantage of a vulnerable Hawks team, then they could possibly become knotted up with New York if the prior situation happens against Brooklyn and if the Washington Wizards come away with a victory against the Knicks on Friday in a game that might spell playoffs for the troubled Washington franchise.

Atlanta’s Schedule

April 2 – vs. Chicago (42-32)

April 4 – vs. Cleveland (30-45)

April 6 — @ Indiana (52-23)

April 8 – vs. Detroit (27-47)

April 9 – vs. Boston (23-51)

April 11 — @ Brooklyn (40-33)

April 12 – vs. Miami (51-22)

April 14 – vs. Charlotte (36-38)

April 16 — @ Milwaukee (14-60)

Although New York and Atlanta have the day off on Saturday while the Cavs do battle with the Charlotte Bobcats, the two top teams in the Eastern Conference await the Knicks and Hawks at home on Sunday. Although Indiana is slipping as of late, Atlanta will be paying visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers are 33-5 this season. New York, on the other hand, visits Miami, who will be looking to gain more ground on Indiana for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

Following the game against Charlotte, Cleveland finishes off the season hosting Detroit (27-47), traveling to Milwaukee (14-60) and having the Celtics (23-51) at the Q before ending the season where it started off: hosting the Brooklyn Nets. Cleveland faces an easier schedule the rest of the way (.374) than Atlanta (.473) and New York (.562), which is favorable for a team that may be getting back its best player on Wednesday. Although Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters have been playing excellent together as of late, I don’t think the admission of Kyrie Irving back into the starting lineup will hinder the chemistry of the team in any way. With Anderson Varejao likely out for the game against Orlando, Cleveland will need all the help it can get in order to continue a noteworthy turnaround to a dismal 2014.

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