LAST TIME OUT
The Cleveland Cavaliers looked like a team that had largely given up on Saturday. After falling behind early and being down by as many 33 points in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers ultimately fell by a final score of 111-99. To top it all off, in the most Cavaliers way possible, Cleveland was done in by the hands of one Kelly Olynyk, who scored a career high 25 points.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Brooklyn Nets
Record: 44-37 (16-24 away)
Tipoff: 8 p.m. from Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Nets 108, Cavaliers 97 on March 28
Opponent’s Blog: From Russia With Dunk
Nets: G Joe Johnson (OUT-calf), G Shaun Livingston (OUT-toe), G Deron Williams (OUT-knee), G Alan Andersen (QUESTIONABLE-abdomen), C Brook Lopez (OUT-back)
Cavaliers: F Luol Deng (OUT-back), G/F C.J. Miles (OUT-back), F Anthony Bennett (OUT-knee), G Carrick Felix (OUT-knee)
The quest to avoid 50 losses
If the Cavaliers win tonight, they will finish with 49 losses. If they lose, they’ll once again finishes with 50 losses on the season yet again. While a win tonight doesn’t make up for all the mistakes made this season or even mask them, it’s a good indicator that this team actually did improve this season.
Above all, that’s all the Cavs or their fans can really ask for at this point. No matter what happens tonight, Cleveland isn’t going to make the playoffs. No matter what happens tonight, this franchise will again be picking in the lottery and bring a huge entourage to the lottery ball selection. But just maybe if the Cavaliers don’t lose 50 games this season, some of the early season momentum can come back.
Remember what happened a year ago?
A year ago, on fan appreciation night, Kyrie Irving walked off the court at the end of the game and took hell for it. In the year since, Irving has been somewhat vilified by the Cavaliers’ fan base and the media. He’s been labeled a whiner, called immature and most recently had a simple tweet over analyzed by the reporters who interact with him on a daily basis.
It doesn’t help that Irving hasn’t been the Irving that is one of the most exciting players in the NBA. He’s struggled to get in any sort of offensive rhythm in the past few games and has somewhat deferred to Dion Waiters. It’s likely a result of the season winding down, but if Irving doesn’t play well in the final game of the season, it’s hard to see that sitting well with the fans and media. He’s already over-scrutinized, over-analyzed and picked apart by everyone with an opinion about the Cavaliers. A bad game tonight isn’t going to stop that, but it can help.
Remember, this isn’t the future
Very few of the Cavaliers who will take the floor tonight are guaranteed to be Cavaliers next season. There are a two solid building blocks on the team (namely Irving and Waiters) and three others (Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Anthony Bennett) that figure to receive playing time next season. Other than that, this roster is full of veterans, those injured and those not, who may not nbe playing basketball on the shores of Lake Erie next season.
Chief among those is Anderson Varejao. The longest-tenured Cavalier has a non-guaranteed contract next season and could potentially be playing his last game as a Cavalier tonight. Like Varejao, this team wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and it was often frustratingly unpredictable. So take it in and enjoy it.
I never kept an official tally, but I’d assume I was well under .500 in picking the outcome Cavaliers game this season. In my final prediction that will likely be wrong, give the Cavaliers over a Nets team resting most of its key players.